Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Book Review : When Jessie Came Across The Sea

Title : When Jessie Came Across the Sea

Author : Amy Hest

Illustrator : P.J.Lynch

Age : 4 to 8 years

Found this book on the discounted price shelf in the bookstore last week. Just the cover picture of the book enticed me so much that I had to read it there itself and brought it home to keep a nice piece of art and writing.

It is a story of a 13-year old girl Jessie who is an orphan and lives with her grandmother in a village in Europe. She always keeps her mother's marriage band close to her. She has a lovely relationship with her grandmother. Jessie teaches her grandmother to read and write while her grandmother teaches her to sew. They are happy in their own little world. But this soon changes with a big jolt when the Rabbi of the village selects Jessie to go to America on his ticket as he has to be in the village to perform his regular duties. Jessie and her grandmother are devastated even at the thought of being away from each other but then they both reconcile to this big change in their lives.

The day soon arrives when Jessie has to finally board the ship to New York. Jessie is unsure, afraid, alone and very sad but soon forgets her woes and gets herself busy in sewing laces for the women passengers on the ship. While on the ship, a young boy Lou becomes her friend. On arriving New York, Jessie is received by Rabbi's brother's widow who owns a dress shop. Jessie starts working there sewing beautiful laces and soon people begin to throng the dress shop for her special laces. Also, she starts school again and regularly writes letters to her grandmother narrating her experiences in the new city.

Three years fly away like this and one day she happens to meet her old friend Lou in the garden. They develop liking for each other and Lou proposes but Jessie wants some more time. By this time she had already saved enough money that she could buy a ticket for her grandmother to come to New York. Grandmother reaches America and blesses the young couple with the perfect gift which she had been entrusted with when Jessie came to America.

Illustrations are very mature and can be appreciated across all ages. The water color pictures are really life like and bring the inner feelings of the protagonist beautifully to the paper. The picture which is also on the cover, captures the moment when the ship of the immigrants reach the shores of America and Statue of Liberty is in the backdrop. It beautifully depicts the medley of emotions that the protagonist must be experiencing at that time - excitement of landing in an alien land, hopes to fulfill the dreams of a better future, apprehensions of the unknown and melancholy feeling of leaving the loved ones far behind. These are some of the feelings which are not alien to me and I am sure, not to many people who move from their place of birth to a new country, new surroundings and amidst new people leaving the comforts of known surroundings.

A lovely story wonderfully brought to life by the gorgeous illustrations. A perfect package. This book has been awarded the Kate Greenaway Medal besides many other accolades which it truly deserves.


  1. Hey I’d reviewed this one on ST too! Loved your review!

  2. Thanks Chox. I just checked your review on ST again. Now I remember seeing it there sometime back but had forgotten about it.


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