My Aunt Manya

Jose Pat­ter­son
  • Review
By – July 14, 2016

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.

Dro­ra Arussy, Ed.D., is an edu­ca­tion­al con­sul­tant who spe­cial­izes in inte­grat­ing Jew­ish and sec­u­lar stud­ies, the arts into edu­ca­tion, and cre­ative teach­ing for excel­lence in Jew­ish edu­ca­tion. She is the moth­er to four school-age chil­dren and has taught from pre-school through adult. Dro­ra is an adjunct pro­fes­sor of Hebrew lan­guage at Drew University.

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