Striking photographs and interesting text will attract children to this lively, warm refresher on the role of Ellis Island Immigration Station in our national and personal histories. Raymond Bial took the modern photographs himself and chose the archival shots. The old and the new graphics blend seamlessly, highlighting the emotion of the events which, although history, are neither distant nor remote. Bial introduces catchy facts about the history of the island, once mere landfill, and about the United States Immigration Service, a federal response to each state doing their own thing. The book is a general view of all arrivals, with experiences true for all ethnic groups. There are several memories specifically about Jewish experiences and a few photos including Jewish people and religious items. More than half of the famous immigrants noted by name are Jewish, although the text does not say so. Jewish poet Emma Lazarus is quoted (her poem is on the base of the Statue of Liberty) without being identified as Jewish. The text does not shirk from noting anti-immigrant sentiment and quotas, but the common history for all groups helps establish a strong feeling of community. Counter pointing the visions of the immigrants with the current visitors to Ellis Island creates a sense of poignancy and a common bond. Readers will care about the past, think about their family backgrounds, and hopefully journey there themselves as a result of this wellresearched, well-written and well-produced photojournalism. Pair this with another of Bial’s excellent photo-essay books, Tenement: Immigrant Life on the Lower East Side. Ages 8 to 12.
Ellen G. Cole, a retired librarian of the Levine Library of Temple Isaiah in Los Angeles, is a past judge of the Sydney Taylor Book Awards and a past chairperson of that committee. She is a co-author of the AJL guide, Excellence in Jewish Children’s Literature. Ellen is the recipient of two major awards for contribution to Judaic Librarianship, the Fanny Goldstein Merit Award from the Association of Jewish Libraries and the Dorothy Schroeder Award from the Association of Jewish Libraries of Southern California. She is on the board of AJLSC.