________________ CM . . . . Volume XXI Number 18 . . . . January 16, 2015


Ellis Island. (Crabtree Chrome).

Molly Aloian.
St. Catharines, ON: Crabtree, 2014.
48 pp., pbk., hc., pdf & html, $11.95 (pbk.), $21.56 (RLB.).
ISBN 978-0-7787-1176-6 (pbk.), ISBN 978-0-7787-1168-1 (RLB.), ISBN 978-1-4271-8929-5 (pdf), ISBN 978-1-4271-8921-9 (html).

Subject Headings:
Ellis Island Immigration Station (N.Y. and N.J.)-History-Juvenile literature.
Ellis Island (N.J. and N.Y.)-History-Juvenile literature.
Immigrants-United States-History-Juvenile literature.
United States-Emigration and immigration-History-Juvenile literature.

Grades 5-8 / Ages 10-13.

Review by Suzanne Pierson.

***½ /4



All Aboard!

Once they reached seaports, they boarded steamships. Immigrants from Asia traveled across the Pacific Ocean. Many entered the United States through Angel Island in San Francisco, California. Immigrants moving from Europe to the United States usually entered through Ellis Island. Those moving to Canada entered the country at Grosse Isle, Quebec or at Pier 21 in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Ellis Island belongs to the "Crabtree Chrome" series. The title of the book is somewhat misleading. The book does have a focus on Ellis Island, but it is more about the immigrant experience arriving in the United States or Canada during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Chapter titles include "Immigration Island", "The Journey Begins", "Island of Hope and Tears" and "Starting New Lives". From historic photographs and first-hand accounts, the reader learns some of the reasons that compelled people to leave their homelands and make the difficult and dangerous journey to North America. Whether the immigrant was destined for Pier 21 in Halifax or Ellis Island in New York, the shipboard experience was probably very similar.

The journey across the Atlantic Ocean was terrible. Steamships were crowded and dirty, especially in steerage. Steerage was jam-packed, filthy, and had hardly any fresh air. There were no windows, and no room to move around. There were no proper toilets. Two or three of every five steerage passengers suffered from seasickness.

      The text is clear and divided into subtopics with meaningful subheading, such as "Starvation and War", and "Immigrant Communities". Gold text boxes contain copies of primary source material which adds greater understanding of the experience to the readers of this book.

I remember my grandfather always telling me how he knew he could be rich in America because he saw riches in the architecture of Ellis Island. He felt that if they let the poor in such a gorgeous hall then life in this country was just.

      Each book contains a "Table of Contents", "Learning More" (book and website suggestions), a glossary, and an index. The index includes entries in bold that refer to pictures. Since the book is rich with informative photographs and illustrations, this is a good tool for younger readers. Each double page spread in the body of the book also contains one word in the text in bold. That word is explained in a highlighted space at the bottom of the second page. For example, "contaminated: not pure and so unsafe to eat or drink".

      The greatest strength of Ellis Island is the quality and quantity of the pictures. The many photos, both black and white and coloured, add details of the hardships and conditions that would otherwise be hard to convey in a simple text. Other illustrations are cartoons, magazine illustrations, and paintings from the time. Photographs from the section that deals directly with the Canadian experience include one of a group of cheerful looking Scots leaving Scotland in 1925 to find work in Canada. I hope that worked out for them. Another photograph shows a burial site at Grosse Isle, a site also known as the Irish Memorial National Historic Site.

      Despite the somewhat misleading title, Ellis Island contains meaningful and accessible information about the immigrant experience from 1892 to 1954 when millions of people from Europe, Asia, and other parts of the world sought a better life in North America. There is sufficient Canadian content and enough transferable information about the immigrant experience to make Ellis Island a useful purchase in Canadian schools.

Highly Recommended.

Suzanne Pierson, a retired teacher-librarian, is currently instructing Librarianship courses at Queen's University in Kingston, ON.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.
Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.

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