Published by Nancy Paulsen Books
Summary: It’s December 1937, and Esther’s family in Poland has just gotten word from Papa that he’s saved enough money to bring one family member to Cuba. 12-year-old Esther manages to convince him that it should be her, not her younger brother, and she sets off on the long journey across the ocean to a tropical island she knows little about. Once there, she learns that her father is trying to make a living as a peddler, but is a terrible salesman. Esther looks for ways to make money, and discovers a talent for dressmaking. As she settles into her new home, she and her father make new friends including wealthy Cubans, a poor black family, and a father and son from China. Meanwhile, they hear of increasing atrocities against Jews in Poland, and work day and night to bring the rest of the family over. Esther tells her story through letters she writes to her younger sister Malka, and by the end of the book, she is able to share the letters with Malka in person. Includes an author’s note telling about her grandmother on whom this story is based and a list of resources. 242 pages; grades 4-7.
Pros: I don’t always find the letter writing format particularly engaging, but this book drew me in almost immediately. Excellent historical fiction with compelling characters make this a great choice for a wide range of readers and a book likely to be considered for some awards.
Cons: Papa seemed a bit passive for someone whose family was depending on him for their survival.