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Inquiry Unlimited

Literacy Immigrant and Child Labor Experiences in Literature

  • Armstrong, Jennifer. Foolish Gretel. New York: Random House, 1997. (73 pages) In 1855 Galveston, Texas, ten-year-old Gretel and her two spoiled, complaining sisters all hope to be accepted as a companion to Frau Dimpel, the richest German lady in town. (Germany)
  • Bader, Bonnie. East Side Story. New York: Silver Moon Press, 1993. (72 pages) A young girl and her older sister, working in the Triangle Shirtwaist factory, a sweatshop on the Lower East Side of New York City, join a protest to try to improve the miserable working conditions.
  • Bartone, Elisa. Peppe The Lamplighter. New York: Lothrop, Lee & Shepard Books, 1993. (unpaged) Based on a family story about the author's grandfather who emigrated from Avellino, near Naples, this tells of how Peppe has taken a job lighting the gas street lamps in his New York City neighborhood. (Italy)
  • Bartoletti, Susan Campbell. Silver at Night. New York: Crown, 1994. (30 pages) Wanting his own land, Massimino emigrates from Italy to work in the coal mines of Pennsylvania during the turn-of-the-century and slowly saves enough silver to pay the passage of his fiancee. (Italy)
  • Bartoletti, Susan Campbell. Growing Up in Coal Country. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1996. (127 pages) [Keating Owen Child Labor Act 1916]
  • Bunting, Eve. So Far from the Sea. New York: Clarion Books, 1998. (30 pages) When seven-year-old Laura and her family visit Grandfather's grave at the Manzanar War Relocation Center, the Japanese American child leaves behind a special symbol. (Japan)
  • Caseley, Judith. Apple Pie and Onions. New York: Greenwillow Books, 1987. (32 pages) How does Rebecca overcome being embarrassed when her Grandma meets an old friend on the street and greets her loudly in Yiddish? (Russia)
  • Cech, John. My Grandmother's Journey. New York: Bradbury Press, 1991. (unp) Basing his narrative on the experiences of his wife's mother, who was born in Russia in 1907 and escaped westward in a harrowing journey during WW II, Cech tells a moving story as it might be told to a grandchild at bedtime.
  • Chetin, Helen. Angel Island Prisoner, 1922. Berkeley, CA: New Seed Press, 1982. (24 pages) A young Chinese girl, her mother, and baby brother, immigrating to the United States in 1922, are detained on Angel Island in the San Francisco Bay with thirty other Chinese women while awaiting permission to enter the mainland. (China)
  • Choi, Yangsook. The Name Jar. New York: Knopf, 2001. (unpaged) Unhei has just come with her family from Korea and is starting school. Her name is pronounced Yoon-hye, which means grace, but she feels awkward about it after some teasing on the school bus. She decides to choose an American name, and her classmates oblige her by filling a glass jar with their suggestions. Her mother reminds her that she and her grandmother went to a name master for Unhei's name, and Unhei practices stamping her name with the beautiful name stamp her grandmother gave her. Finally, Unhei decides to keep her own name, and one of her classmates even has a stamp made for himself with the Korean characters for friend. (Korea)
  • Cohen, Barbara. Gooseberries to Oranges. New York: Lothrop, Lee & Shepard, 1982. (31 ps.) A young girl reminisces about the journey from her cholera-ravaged village in Eastern Europe to the United States where she is reunited with her father.
  • Cohen, Barbara. Molly's Pilgrim. New York: Bantam Skylar, 1990. (41 pages) Told to make a doll like a pilgrim for the Thanksgiving display at school, Molly's Jewish mother dress the doll as she herself dressed before leaving Russia to seek religious freedom - - much to Molly's embarrassment. (Russia)
  • Currier, Katrina Saltonstall. Kai's Journey to Gold Mountain. Tiburon, CA: Angel Island Association, 2005. Primary document: Chinese Exclusion Act (1882). (China)
  • Dell, Pamela. The Gold Coin: A Story About New York's Lower East Side and Its Immigrants. Excelsior, Minn.: Tradition Pub., 2003. (47 pages) In 1901, thirteen-year-old Dimitri, his younger brother, and their parents are beginning to feel at home in New York City's Lower East Side, where they have lived since their Jewish faith led them to flee Russia thirteen months earlier.
  • Dionetti, Michelle. Coal Mine Peaches. New York: Orchard Books, 1991. (unpaged) Beginning with her grandfather's boyhood in Italy, a young girl describes his arrival in the United States and the life he lived with her grandmother and their children and grandchildren. (Italy)
  • Garland, Sherry. My Father's Boat. NY: Scholastic, 1998. A Vietnamese American boy spends a day with his father on his shrimp boat, listening as he describes how his own father fishes on the South China Sea. (Vietnam)
  • Gilmore, Rachna. Lights for Gita. Gardiner, Maine: Tibury House Pub., 2000. Gita, an immigrant child from New Delhi, India, celebrates the Hindu holiday of Divali in her new home for the first time. (India)
  • Goldin, Barbara Diamond. Red Means Good Fortune: A Story of San Francisco's Chinatown. New York: Puffin Books, 1994. (54 pages) Twelve-year-old Jin Mun, working for his father's laundry in San Francisco's Chinatown, is shocked to discover that one of his neighbors is a slave girl, forbidden to leave her house. (China)
  • Greenwood, Barbara. Factory Girl. Toronto: Kids Can Press, 2007. (136 pages) Twelve-year-old Emily must hold down her job working twelve-hour days in a garment factory in order to keep from starving. A story that includes historical interludes about the working conditions in factories at the turn of the century.
  • Gross, Virginia. It's Only Goodbye. New York: Puffin Books, 1992. (54 pages) Based on a family story, this tells of ten-year-old Umberto and his father traveling from Italy to America in 1892 on the Chateau LaFite when Pietro, working to pay off his passage, is thrown into the ship's brig leaving Umberto to fend for himself. (Italy)
  • Hanson, Regina. The Tangerine Tree. New York: Clarion Books, 1995. (31 pages) When Papa announces that he must leave Jamaica to work in America, Ida is heartbroken until he tells her a secret. (Jamaica)
  • Harvey, Brett. Immigrant Girl: Becky of Eldridge Street. New York: Holiday House, 1987. (40 ps.) Becky, whose family has emigrated from Russia to avoid being persecuted as Jews, finds growing up in New York City in 1910 a vivid and exciting experience.
  • Heller, Linda. The Castle on Hester Street. New York: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2007.
  • Herold, Maggie Rugg. A Very Important Day. New York: Morrow Junior Books, 1995. (32 pages) Families from varied countries of origin are bound for the courthouse, where they are sworn in as U.S. citizens.
  • Hesse, Karen. Aleutian Sparrow. New York: Aladdin Paperbacks, 2005. (156 pages) An Aleutian Islander recounts her suffering during World War II in American internment camps designed to "protect" the population from the invading Japanese. (Aleutian Islands)
  • Hesse, Karen. Letters From Rifka. (148 ps.) Based on the author's great aunt, this story tells of how the family of twelve-year-old Rifka journeys from a Jewish community in the Ukraine to Ellis Island. They must outwit a band of Russian soldiers to get into Poland, overcome typhus, before being separated. Rifka is denied passage to American because she caught ringworm. She stays in Belgium to recover before facing the sea challenges to get to America. (Ukraine)
  • Hoobler, Dorothy. The Summer of Dreams: The Story of a World's Fair Girl. Morristown, NJ: Silver Burdett Press, 1993. (63 pages) In 1893 while working at the Chicago World's Fair, a young Italian-American girl meets two prominent women, Mrs. Potter Palmer and Jane Addams, and learns about the achievements of other women throughout history. (Italy)
  • Hurvitz, Johanna. Faraway Summer. New York: Morrow Junior Books, 1998. (155 pages) In the summer of 1910, Dossi, a poor Russian immigrant from the tenements of New York, spends two weeks with the Meade family on their Vermont farm, and all their lives are enriched by the experience. (Russia)
  • Jaspersohn, William. The Two Brothers. Middlebury, VT: Vermont Folklife Center, 2000. (32 pages) Based on the life of Heinrich and Friedrich Eurich, two brothers in Prussia in the 1880s, who travel separately to America and end up working on adjacent farms in Vermont. (Prussia)
  • Johnston, Norma. Lotta's Progress. New York: Avon Books, 1997. (155 pages) In 1848 when Lotta's family immigrates to Boston from Germany, they face all sorts of difficulties until they are befriended by the Alcott family who have set themselves up as "missionaries to the poor." (Germany)
  • Joose, Barbara. The Morning Chair. New York: Clarion Books, 1995. (32 pages) Bram and his parents move from Holland to New York City where he continues to snuggle in the morning chair with Mama. (Holland)
  • Kavanagh, Katie. Home Is Where Your Family Is. Austin, TX: Raintree Steck-Vaughn, 1994. (31 pages) During the journey from Poland to America, a young girl realizes that although she is leaving one home, she will find another as long as she is with her family. (Poland)
  • Kraus, Joanna Halpert. Tall Boy's Journey. Minneapolis, MN: Carolrhoda, 1992. (48 ps.) When Tim arrives in America from Korea, everything about his adoptive family seems strange and scary. But a family friend, also Korean, is able to help him accept his new home. (Korea)
  • Kroll, Steven. When I Dream of Heaven: Angelina's Story. Lincolnwood, Illinois: Jamestown Publishers, 2000. (155 pages) In 1895 in New York City, Gina, a fourteen-year-old Italian immigrant, forced by her family to drop out of school and work long hours in a garment factory, tries to break free of the control her parents have over her finances and social life. (Italy)
  • Kudlinski, Kathleen. Shannon: A Chinatown Adventure, San Francisco, 1880. New York: Aladdin, 1996. (71 ps.) Arriving in San Francisco from Ireland, Shannon meets a young Chinese girl, Mi Lung, and notices that Mi Ling is terribly afraid of something. (Ireland) (China)
  • Kushner, Donn. Uncle Jacob's Ghost Story. New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 1986. (132 pages) Paul discovers the story of his Great Uncle Jacob, the black sheep of the family, who believed that the ghosts of two beloved friends followed him when he emigrated from Poland to America. (Poland)
  • Lakin, Patricia. Don't Forget. New York: Aladdin Paperbacks, 2002. (unpaged) While buying the ingredients for her first cake--a surprise for her mother's birthday--Sarah shares secrets with the friendly neighborhood shopkeepeers, especially with the Singers, who have blue numbers on their arms.
  • Lehrman, Robert. The Store That Mama Built. New York: Macmillan, 1992. (126 pages) In 1917 twelve-year-old Birdie and her siblings, the children of Jewish immigrants from Russia, help their recently widowed mother run the family store, picking up where their father left off in his struggle to succeed in America. (Russia)
  • Leighton, Maxine. An Ellis Island Christmas. New York: Viking, 1992. (31 pages) Tells of how the Polish family of Krysia Petrowski, decide what to pack, walk four days to arrive at a port, sail on a steamship for a difficult sea voyage that brings them to Ellis Island after fourteen days. (Poland)
  • Levine, Ellen. I Hate English!, 1989. When her family moves to New York from Hong Kong, Mei Mei finds it difficult to adjust to school and learn the alien sounds of English. (China)
  • Levinson, Riki. Soon Anala. New York: Orchard, 1993. While eagerly awaiting the arrival of her two younger brothers from the old country, Anna tries to speak more English and less Yiddish. (Russia)
  • Levinson, Riki. Watch the Stars Come Out. New York: Puffin Unicorn, 1985. (32 pages) Grandma tells about her mama's journey to America by boat, years ago.
  • Levitin, Sonia. Journey to America. New York: Atheneum, 1993. (150 pages) A Jewish family fleeing Nazi Germany in 1938 endures innumerable separations before they are once again united. (Germany)
  • Levitin, Sonia. Junk Man's Daughter. Chelsea, MI: Sleeping Bear Press, 2007. A family emigrates to America where they expect to find streets paved with gold, but instead it takes hard work and determination before they find a way to make a living in their new home.
  • Levitin, Sonia. A Piece of Home. New York: Dial Books for Young Readers, 1996. (unp) When young Gregor and his family leave their home in Russia for America, each chooses one "special treasure" to bring. For Mama, it's a samovar; for Papa it's a garmoshka, a small accordion; for Gregor it's the comforting blanket Great-Grandmother made. (Russia)
  • Lieurance, Suzanne. The Locket: Surviving the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire. Berkeley Heights, NJ: Enslow Publishers, 2008. (160 pages) After Galena, an eleven-year-old Russian immigrant survives a terrible fire at the non-Unionized Triangle Shirtwaist Factory while her older sister and many others do not, she begins fighting for improved working conditions in New York City factories. (Russia)
  • Littlefield, Holly. Fire at the Triangle Factory. Minneapolis: Carolrhoda Books, 1996. (48 pages) On March 25, 1911, two fourteen-year-old girls, sewing machine operators at the Triangle Shirtwaist Company in New York, are caught in the famous Triangle fire that claimed the lives of 146 garment workers. (The fire led to legislation requiring improved factory safety standards.) [Summation: Defendants Max Blanck and Isaac Harris;Chronology; fire report; Asch building maps ;trial; newspaper accounts; March 26, 1911, p. 1; victims; trial excerpts; selected photos; building and safety laws] [Cornell University "Triangle Factory Fire" exhibit of testimonials, accounts, reenactment, songs]
  • Maestro, Betsy. Coming to America: The Story of Immigration. New York: Scholastic, 1996. (unpaged)
  • Mayerson, Evelyn. The Cat Who Escaped From Steerage: A Bubbemeiser. New York: Scribner, 1999. (66 pages) In 1910, nine-year-old Chanah and her family leave Poland for America. As they near Ellis Island in steerage, they fear their young cousin, Yaacov, who is deaf and cannot speak may be turned back. Chanah has smuggled a stray cat, Pitsel, aboard and he might be turned back as well. (Poland)
  • McCully, Emily Arnold. The Bobbin Girl. A ten-year-old bobbin girl working in a textile mill in Lowell, Massachusetts in the 1830s must make a difficult decision about participating in the first workers' strike in Lowell. [based on the life of Harriet Hanson Robinson]
  • Mochizuki, Ken. Baseball Saved Us. Lee & Low, 1993. (32 ps.) "Shorty" and his family have been sent to a Japanese-American internment camp during World War II. Even after the family returns home, baseball offers a way to overcome the misery that prejudice has caused.
  • Mochizuki, Ken. Heroes. New York: Lee & Low Books, 1995. (unpaged) Japanese American Donnie, whose playmates insist he be the "bad guy" in their war games, calls on his reluctant father and uncle to help him get away from that role. (Japan)
  • Mohr, Nicholasa. The Magic Shell. New York: Scholastic, 1995. (90 pages) When his family moves from the Dominican Republic to New York City, Jaime uses his uncle's magical shell to call up happy memories. (Dominican Republic)
  • Moskin, Marietta. Waiting for Mama. New York: Coward, McCann & Geoghegan, 1975. (91 pages) A Russian immigrant family living in New York in the early 1900's prepares for the long-awaited arrival of their mother and baby sister. (Russia)
  • Moss, Marissa. In America. New York: Dutton Children's Books, 1994. (unpaged) While Walter and his grandfather walk to the Post Office, Grandfather recounts how he decided to come to America, while his brother Herschel stayed in Lithuania. (Lithuania)
  • Nixon, Joan Lowery. Land of Hope. New York: Bantam Doubleday Dell Books, 1998. In 1902, Rebekah Levinsky and her family escapes the pogroms of Russia, arrives at Ellis Island, and faces the debarment of her grandfather due to a limp. (Russia)
  • Oberman, Sheldon. The Always Prayer Shawl. Honesdale, PA: Caroline House, 1997. (32 pages) A family prayer shawl gets passed down from generation to generation. (Russia)
  • Paterson, Katherine. Lyddie. Prince Frederick, MD: Recorded Books, 1993. (6 sound discs unabridged) An impoverished Vermont farm girl Lyddie Worthen is determined to gain her independence by becoming a factory worker in Lowell, Massachusetts in the 1840s.
  • Polacco, Patricia. The Keeping Quilt. New York: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 1998. (32 pages) A homemade quilt made from a basket of old clothes ties together the lives of four generations of an immigrant Russian family, keeping "backhome" in their lives. (Russia)
  • Pomeranc, Marion. The American Wei. Morton Grove, Illinois: A. Whitman, 1998.
  • Pomeranc, Marion Hess. The Hand-Me-Down-Horse. Morton Grove, Illinois: A. Whitman, 1996. (unpaged) Before she leaves for America, Aunt Rachel gives David a box full of English words to learn, and then one day an old rocking horse appears at his door.
  • Pryor, Bonnie. The Dream Jar. New York: Morrow Junior Books, 1996. (unpaged) Through hard work, Valentina and her family, Russian immigrants in the early 1900s, save all their earnings in a dream jar to finance a store of their own.
  • Rael, Elsa. Rivka's First Thanksgiving. New York: Aladdin Paperbacks, 2001. (unpaged) Having heard about Thanksgiving in school, nine-year-old Rivka tries to convince her immigrant family and her Rabbi that it is a holiday for all Americans, Jews and non-Jews alike.
  • Rael, Elsa. What Zeesie Saw on Delancey Street. New York: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 1996. (30 pages) The author remembers growing up in a tenement on Manhattan's Lower East Side. Seven-year-old Zeesie attends her first "package party" with her parents where immigrants from the same village in Europe raise money to bring more immigrants to New York.
  • Rael, Elsa. When Zaydeh Danced on Edlridge Street. New York: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 1997. (36 pages) While staying with her grandparents in New York City in the mid-1930s, eight-year-old Zeesie joins in the celebration of Simchat Torah and sees a different side of her stern grandfather.
  • Rappaport, Doreen. Trouble at the Mines. New York: Bantam, 1987. (96 pages) Rosie and her family are caught up in the Arnot, Pennsylvania, mining strike of 1899-100 led by the union organizer Mother Jones.
  • Ross, Lillian Hammer. Sarah, Also Known As Hannah. Morton Grove, Illinois: A. Whitman, 1994. (63 pages) When twelve-year-old Sarah leaves the Ukraine for America in her sister's place, she must use her sister's passport and her sister's name, Hannah. (Ukraine)
  • Sandin, Joan. At Home in a New Land. New York: HarperCollins, 2007. (64 pages) Carl Erik, a recent immigrant from Sweden, becomes the man of the house when his father and uncle go to work in a logging camp, and he learns many things about life in Minnesota while attending school, doing his chores, and trying to put meat on the table. (Sweden)
  • Sandin, Joan. The Long Way Westward. New York: HarperTrophy, 1989. (63 pages) Relates the experiences of two young brothers and their family, immigrants from Sweden, from their arrival in New York through the journey to their new home in Minnesota. (Sweden)
  • Shigekawa, Marlene. Blue Jay in the Desert. Chicago, Illinois: Polychrome Publishing, 1993. While living in a relocation camp during World War II, a young Japanese American boy receives a message of hope from his grandfather. (Japan)
  • Tarbescu, Edith. Annushka's Voyage. NY: Clarion. (32 pages) Annushka's grandfather says good-bye to two sisters who journey across the Atlantic on a steamship, pass through Ellis Island, and, with the help of their grandmother's Sabbath candlesticks, join their father in America.
  • Thornton, Jeremy. The Gold Rush: Chinese Immigrants Come to America (1848-1882). New York: PowerKids Press, 2004. (24 pages)
  • Uchida, Yoshiko. The Bracelet. Philomel, (32 ps.) Drawing on her own childhood as a Japanese-American during World War II, the author has created a powerful story about friendship and material culture. Beautifully illustrated, the main character, seven-year-old Emi, acts as an eloquent spokesperson for those who were forced to live in West Coast internment camps. Students will find her story informative and inspirational. (Japan)
  • Uchida, Yoshiko. The Invisible Thread. NY: Beech Tree Paperback, 1995. (136 ps.) Children's author, Yoshiko Uchida, describes growing up in Berkeley, California, as a Nisei, second generation Japanese American, and her family's internment in a Nevada concentration camp during World War II. (Japan)
  • Uchida, Yoshiko. Journey to Topaz. NY: Scribner, 1971. (149 ps.) After the Pearl Harbor attack an eleven-year-old Japanese-American girl and her family are forced to go to an aliens camp in Utah. (Japan)
  • Wallace, Ian. Boy of the Deeps. New York: DK Ink, 1999. (unpaged) James, the son of a coal miner, goes with his father for the first time to work in the mines of Cape Breton. [child labor laws]
  • Waterton, Betty. Pettranella. New York: Vanguard Press, 1980. (28 pages) When Pettranella leaves for America with her parents, her grandmother gives her a bag of flower seeds from her garden to plant when she reaches her new home.
  • Watson, Mary. The Butterfly Seeds. New York: Tambourine Books, 1995. (unpaged) When his family comes to America, Jake brings special seeds that produce a wonderful reminder of his grandfather.
  • Winter, Jeanette. Klara's New World. New York: Knopf, 1992. (unpaged) A Swedish family faces many hardships when they immigrate to America in search of a better life. (Sweden)
  • Woodruff, Elvira. The Memory Coat. New York: Scholastic Press, 1999. (unpaged) In the early 1900s, a Jewish family fearful of the Cossack raids leaves Russia. An old coat might prevent them from entering Ellis Island. (Russia)
  • Yezerski, Thomas. Together in Pinecone Patch. NY: Farrar, 1998. A girl from Ireland and a boy from Poland overcome the prejudices held by the residents of the small American town in which they have emigrated. (Ireland; Poland)

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Last modified: February 17, 2017.
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