Ten-year-old Sarah has had a difficult life in late 19th century Russia. Her mother has died, her father has left to make a better life in the United States, and her stepmother is cold and uncaring. This is our introduction to the main character and the book is based on a true story. The complications continue as word comes that Sarah’s father has died in the US and her Aunt Manya has sent her a ticket to come by boat and live with her. Although Sarah is overjoyed to be leaving her stepmother, it is not easy to leave; there are friends, a cat, and the only home she has known.
The adventure begins with a family friend smuggling Sarah over the border, continues on the boat, and ends at Ellis Island. With each new stage in this adventure there is an element of beshert, a new term for Sarah but one about which she becomes an expert. There is someone or something along the way that allows her to continue this dangerous journey and begin life in a new country with a new language. Sarah shows optimism and hope all along the way.
At the end of each chapter, Sarah shares some thoughts as if she is speaking with Aunt Manya. Although the story is in third person, allowing for a more global view, the added thoughts in first person allow the reader a more personal connection with Sarah’s tribulations.
The few sketches at the chapter headings enhance the setting by giving a visual of the people and places of the time.
Recommended for ages 9 – 12.