Gittel’s Journey: An Ellis Island Story by Lesléa Newman

Gittel's JourneySummary

Imagine leaving your country, all by yourself, at the age of ten. Now see yourself arriving in a new country. No one is there to meet you, and you don’t understand the language. Imagine what that must feel like. This is Gittel’s story. When she arrived to Ellis Island, she was scared, sad and unsure. Fortunately, an interpreter made Gittel feel less afraid. He found a crafty way to locate Gittel’s cousin, and the story has a happy ending.

Gittel’s Journey is based on two stories. The Author’s Note describes her family history that inspired this book. Also included is information about how immigrants were processed once they reached Ellis Island. Websites at the end of the book invite further research.

Readers will enjoy this accessible story. The beautiful illustrations, done with soft watercolors, bring Gittel’s journey to life. The sepia colors give the book an aged feel, setting the stage for the time period of the story.

Gittel's Journey

Response to Literature

AASL Standards Framework for Learners: Explore/Think V.A.3 Learners develop and satisfy personal curiosity by engaging in inquiry-based processes for personal growth.

After reading this story, ask learners to share their questions. Explore Immigration: Stories of Yesterday and Today by Scholastic. Learners will appreciate this informative site with an interactive tour and stories of young immigrants. Charts with thought-provoking questions will compel learners to consider how world events impact immigration.

Learners can also interview family members or neighbors who immigrated to America. They can share their story on StoryCorps. This free platform shares audio clips of meaningful conversations. Sara Ratliff, the school librarian at Warrington Middle School in Pensacola, uses StoryCorps with her learners. They practice interviewing techniques and consider how to ask thought-provoking questions. These relevant skills will help them outside of the classroom. Read more about Ratliff’s program on the KnowledgeQuest blog.

For more picture books to broaden ideas about immigration, read Humanizing Immigration with Picture Books on the KnowledgeQuest blog. 

If you like these lesson ideas, please take a look at our book, Lessons Inspired by Picture Books for Primary Grades. This resource includes ready-to-go lesson plans that meet the standards. Worksheets, assessments and rubrics are included. 

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