When Jessie Came
Across the Sea
Written by Amy Hest
Illustrated by P. J. Lynch
Candlewick Press, Cambridge, Mass.
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.
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.
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.