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spacerStory Home: Picture Book Reviews: When Jessie Came Across the Sea
Frog Girl illustration
When Jessie Came Across the Sea
Written by Amy Hest
Illustrated by P. J. Lynch

Candlewick Press, Cambridge, Mass. 1997
5+ years

Jessie (13 years old) and her grandmother live in a poor village in the valleys of eastern Europe. Jessie teaches her grandmother to read and write. Her grandmother shows her how to sew lace. Then one day the rabbi chooses Jessie from all the townspeople to use the ticket to America that was sent to him. Both Jessie and her grandmother are heartbroken at the thought of separation. Grandmother's heart said one thing, but her head said another. Jessie must go.
Jessie departs on storm-swept seas. Lonely and afraid, she gradually makes friends by providing much needed needlework. After her arrival in America, Jessie finds success with her sewing talent, learns to speak English, and falls in love. With the money she saves, she purchases a ticket for her grandmother. Their reunion is a powerful moment of fulfilled devotion accompanied by a timely and precious gift.
spacer The watercolor and gouache illustrations reveal brilliant contrasts between light and dark throughout the book... the glow of a lantern illuminating a worktable, a sunset behind an assembled crowd, light spilling from an open door late at night. The mood of sadness contrasted with hope and yearning for a better life so wonderfully described in Amy Hest's text is perfectly matched by the dramatic imagery of P. J. Lynch who is most adept at portraying human emotion in the faces of the story's characters. Jessie's expression as she leans over the rail is evidence of the quality of the work throughout this worthy book.

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