I first learned about this lovely book through Joanna Marple from Miss Marple’s Musings when she featured it for Perfect Picture Book Friday. I was pretty fortunate to have chanced upon this book during my book hunting expedition in Las Vegas, that was truly a lucky find.
Journeys through Water in Search of Home. One of the things I noted as I reviewed quite a lot of picture books for our Stream of Stories bimonthly theme is how water figures prominently in immigrant stories – with the proverbial crossing of the sea from one country to the next (see my Monday reading post), and how the yearning for a better life (could be one’s own or another’s) could make one travel far and find home in another land.
Once, in a poor village far from here, there was a very small house with a slanting roof. Inside were two chairs, two narrow beds, and a table with a fine lace cloth. A potbellied stove warmed the place in winter, and warmed thin soup.
Jessie lived in that house with Grandmother. They had one skinny cow – Miss Minnie – and a patch of garden. Carrots came up here and there, and sometimes a potato.
True, they only had enough to get by, but Jessie was happy to be with her Grandmother who took care of her since the time her parents died when she was a baby. All she had left to remind her of her parents was her mother’s wedding band kept snug and tight in “a tiny silver box with a tiny lace lining.”
However, fate and circumstance decreed that she is to travel to the United States of America, “where the streets were paved with gold… land of plenty.” And soon she was leaving her Grandmother and heirloom ring behind, as she climbed aboard a huge ship that brought her and a hundred other hopefuls in the land of milk and honey.
Hope Wrapped in Lace. Unlike in Milly Lee’s and Yangsook Choi’s Landed, Shaun Tan’s The Arrival, and Karen Hesse’s Letters from Rifka which provided detailed accounts of the immigration process and its concomitant difficulties with all the examination procedures and the like, this story had very little of that. In fact, it focused more on how Jessie adjusted to her new home, and found hope wrapped in lace to ease her loneliness and her pain. What was once a chore for her back home became the one thing that reminded her distinctly of that time spent with the woman who loved her dearly, and that which ironically tied her to her new home. There is also a whiff of romance and the scent of young love in the story – the subtle charm is expertly woven into the colors, the lifelike paintings, the animated features of the characters in the narrative. What happened to Jessie in New York and whether she ever saw her Grandmother again, I shall leave for you to discover.
Teacher Resources. For teachers who would like to use this book in their classroom, here is a downloadable pdf link prepared by Primary Curriculum Support Programme which includes a detailed list of activities that can be used in class. I found another downloadable pdf link created by Discovering Justice Teacher Institute which also includes read-aloud questions and journaling ideas that could be raised in class. Visions of Liberty.Net tied this book with the monumental Statue of Liberty and has a list of lesson activities including postcard and boat making which teachers might also wish to check out.
When Jessie Came Across the Sea by Amy Hest and Illustrated by PJ Lynch. Published by Scholastic, Inc., 1997. Bought my own copy of the book. Book photos were taken by me.
Winner of the Kate Greenaway Medal and the Sheffield Children’s Book Award
AWB Challenge Update: 128 (
Immigrant Stories Challenge Update: 16 (6)
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