The Girl in the Torch

Balzer & Bray imprint of HarperCollins  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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