“America,” the girl repeated. “What will you do there?”
I was silent for a little time.
“I will do everything there,” I answered.
Rifka knows nothing about America when she flees from Russia with her family in 1919. But she dreams she will at last be safe from the Russian soldiers and their harsh treatment of the Jews in the new country. Throughout her journey, Rifka carries with her a cherished volume of poetry by Alexander Pushkin. In it, she records her observations and experiences in the form of letters to her beloved cousin she has left behind. Strong-hearted and determined, Rifka must endure a great deal: humiliating examinations by doctors and soldiers, deadly typhus, separation from all she has ever known and loved, murderous storms at sea—and as if this is not enough, the loss of her glorious golden hair. And even if she does make it to America, she’s not sure America will have her.
About the Author
Karen Hesse is the author of many books for young people, including Out of the Dust, winner of the Newbery Medal, Brooklyn Bridge, Phoenix Rising, Sable and Lavender. She has received honors including the Scott O’Dell Historical Fiction Award, the Christopher Award, and the MacArthur Fellowship “Genius” Award, making her only the second children's book author to receive this prestigious grant. Born in Baltimore, Hesse graduated from the University of Maryland. She and her husband Randy live in Vermont.
Praise for Letters from Rifka…
“Hesse’s vivacious tale colorfully and convincingly refreshes the immigrant experience.”—Publishers Weekly, Starred Review
“What especially raises it above docu-novel is the emerging sense of Rifka’s personality. Bald from the ringworm, poor and needy, she proves she’s no greenhorn; she has a gift for languages, she’s brave and clever, and if she talks too much, so be it.”—Booklist
“Told with unusual grace and simplicity, an unforgettable picture of immigrant courage, ingenuity, and perseverance.”—Kirkus Reviews, Pointer
“Based largely on the memories of the author’s great-aunt, this historical novel has a plot, characters, and style that will make it an often-requested choice from young readers. A vivid, memorable, and involving reading experience.”—School Library Journal, Starred Review