The Girl in the Torch

  • Review
May 19, 2015

When her father is killed in a Russ­ian pogrom, 12-year-old Sarah sails for Amer­i­ca with her moth­er, grip­ping a post­card of the Stat­ue of Lib­er­ty in her hand for courage. Trag­i­cal­ly, her moth­er becomes ill and dies short­ly after they arrive at Ellis Island. Sarah is put on a ship head­ing back to the old coun­try. Impul­sive­ly, she jumps over­board and swims to Lib­er­ty Island, where she spends sev­er­al days sleep­ing in Lady Liberty’s torch and dodg­ing guards. She final­ly gets to the main­land, thanks to one of those guards — hard-drink­ing, dis­ap­point­ed-by-life Maryk, who brings Sarah to his Chi­na­town board­ing house where she is tak­en under the wing of the for­mi­da­ble Mrs. Lee.

Before long, she begins to make a home for her­self in the most unlike­ly of spots, with the most unlike­ly col­lec­tion of diverse immi­grants as her fam­i­ly. But it’s not that easy; there will be big hur­dles to jump if Sarah wants to make a new life here. Per­haps a lit­tle too sweet in places and requir­ing the will­ing sus­pen­sion of dis­be­lief in oth­ers, the book nev­er­the­less con­veys the ear­ly twen­ti­eth cen­tu­ry, low­er Man­hat­tan melt­ing pot in all its big, messy glo­ry. It will keep read­ers engrossed and turn­ing the pages.

Rec­om­mend­ed for ages 8 – 12.

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