So What Are You Reading?

Reviews of Books.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Letters from Rifka. Karen Hesse

I started reading this book because it won an impressive number of awards:

National Jewish Book Award
International Reading Association Children's Book Award
Sydney Taylor Book Award
American Library Association Notable Book
School Library journal Best Book of the Year
Horn Book Outstanding Book of the Year, and
Booklist Editor's Choice.

However once I started reading it, I was taken with the simple and compelling story.

The book consists of a series of letters written by 12 year old Rifka to her cousin in Russia. They start when in 1919, to avoid persecution, Rifka and her parents and two older brothers have to suddenly leave Russia in the middle of the night with just a small backpack and the clothes on her back. One of these few possessions is a book of Pushkin's poetry given to her by her cousin Tovah. Their destination is the United States where two of her brothers already live.

To calm her fears and give her something to do during the lonely hours of travel, Rifka starts to write letters to Tovah in the blank spaces in the book. The story evolves through these letters which Rifka knows she will not be able to mail until she reaches the U. S. In the book, each letter is preceded by a quote from a Pushkin poem.

Rifka's trip is not easy. She gets separated from her family and it takes over a year before she learns if she will be reunited with them. At a time when Jewish children are normally surrounded with family celebrating their coming of age, Rifka is alone and in charge of her own destiny.

The book excels in character development, historic accuracy, and plot. I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in immigration stories, Jewish history, or young women's literature.


  • At 4:02 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    it was a good book i was suprised at the end of the book

  • At 4:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    karen Hesse is a good book writer!1


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