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Friday, January 29, 2016

Middle Grade Historical Perfectly Captures the Immigrant Experience

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

As violence against Jewish people grows increasingly worse in her European village, 12-year-old Sarah holds fast to her one beacon of hope—a postcard from America showing the grand Statue of Liberty.  The edifice symbolizes everything for which her family yearns: freedom, peace, the chance for a new life.  But it's only Sarah and her mother who cross the great ocean to see the face of the Lady.  And Sarah, alone, who survives Ellis Island.  Unable to stay in the country by herself, Sarah is on a boat back home when she makes the daring decision to jump off.  Dragging herself to the shores of the Lady's island, the young girl takes refuge inside the magnificent statue.  

Although the Lady offers her relative safety, Sarah still has to figure out a way to eat, to dodge the nighttime security guard, and to find a way into Manhattan.  Even when she receives help from some surprising sources, she still has to struggle in order to survive.  Life in America is difficult and strange—will it ever feel like home to a lost, lonely foreigner?  Will the land that promised so much make good on its lofty vows?  Or will Sarah find America just as unwelcoming as the country she left behind?

Like Sarah, I dream of someday seeing the Statue of Liberty in person.  Maybe that's why stories about immigrants flocking to her feet intrigue me so much.  The Girl in the Torch by Robert Sharenow is no exception.  Not only does the book tell an exciting adventure tale, but it also captures perfectly the wonder and fear immigrants must have felt upon arriving in a new land.  With plenty of vivid historical detail, Sharenow brings turn-of-the-century New York alive.  As Sarah navigates her way through that forbidding landscape, readers get a glimpse of the kind of pluck and courage it took for an immigrant to survive the experience.  Atmospheric and engrossing, The Girl in the Torch kept me completely engaged.  I enjoyed it.

(Readalikes:  Reminded me a little of The Fire Horse Girl by Kay Honeyman)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for brief, mild language (no F-bombs), brief nudity, and vague references to alcoholism and prostitution

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find


  1. Sounds like another cute one. Quit tempting me!

  2. Sounds like a good one. We saw the Statue of Liberty a few years ago and it was very moving.


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