Recommended Reading on Immigration

In Immigration on July 7, 2010 at 9:29 am

There are many books available to support a study on immigration. Below is a listing of some our favorite nonfiction and fiction literature.

Know of another book that belongs in this list? Please comment below and share your ideas with fellow educators.


Author:        Peter Spier
Illustrator: Peter Spier
Grades:         K-3
About:          Immigrants to New York City come from everywhere. Peter Spier celebrates the diverse cultures around the world through impressive and detailed illustrations. 48 pages.
Staff Picks:  Spier’s simple text and fun drawings take readers on a world-wide tour.  A great book to show students the many places people come from and the similarities we all share. Miriam Bader, Director of Education.

Coming to America: The Story of Immigration
Author:     Betsy Maestro
Grades:      1-5; younger for read aloud
About:       The story of immigration to America told from pre-historic times until today. 40 pp, illustrated.

I Was Dreaming to Come to America
Author:     Veronica Lawler
Grades:      3-5
About:       In their own words immigrants recall their arrival in the United States. 40 pp; illustrated. Excerpted from Amazon.

Jewish Immigrants
Authors:   Richard Worth and Robert Asher
Grades:      5-8
About:       Part of the Immigration to the United States series. Each book begins with an overview of immigration then focuses on a particular immigrant group and its unique history. 97 pp; photographs and illustrations. Excerpted from Amazon.

Quilted Landscape: Conversations with Young Immigrants
Author:     Yale Strom
Grades:      5-10
About:       26 young people from around the world share their stories of leaving home and immigrating the U.S. 80 pp; photographs. Excerpted from Amazon.

L’Chaim! To Jewish Life in America: Celebrating from  1654 Until Today
Author:     Susan Goldman Rubin
Grades:     5 and up
About:      A series of vignettes illustrate the historical experiences of Jewish Americans. 176 pp; illustrations, photographs. Excerpted from School Library Journal.

World of Our Fathers
Author:     Irving Howe
Grades:     High School and Beyond
About:      A good reference book for teachers of younger children as well, World of Our Fathers evokes the life and times of Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe to America from 1880-1920.  Includes compelling oral histories and photographs.
Staff Pick:  Seminal book and where you should start if you are interested in exploring Jewish Lower East Side history. Then turn to more recent scholarship to help round out the picture.  Amy Stein Milford, Deputy Director.


Peppe the Lamplighter
Author:      Elisa Bartone
Grades:       K-5
About:        Peppe, a young immigrant, lives in a tenement in Little Italy in the early 1900s. The brilliant color illustrations are perfect in capturing the flavor of the Little Italy immigrant neighborhood in the early 1900s. Excerpted from School Library Journal.

My Name is Yoon
Author:      Helen Recorvits
Grades:       K-2
About:        Struggling to adjust to her new life in America, Yoon, whose name means “Shining Wisdom” tries other names – and other identities –  like “cat”,”bird”, and “cupcake” as a way to feel more comfortable in her new school and new country. 32 pp; illustrations. Excerpted from Amazon.

Molly’s Pilgrim
Author:      Barbara Cohen
Grades:       2-5
About:        Russian immigrant Molly thinks she will never fit in with the other third graders in her new American school. But when she brings Mama’s Thanksgiving doll to school for a Thanksgiving project, she realizes that this American holiday is her holiday too. 32 pp; illustrated.

When Jessie Came Across the Sea
Author:      Amy Hest
Grades:       3-5; younger for read aloud
About:        Wonderful, poignant story about 13 year old Jessie leaving her Grandmother in Eastern Europe as she sets out alone for a new life in the “promised” land. 49 pp; illustrations.

The Keeping Quilt
Author:      Patricia Polacco
Grades:       3-5; younger for read aloud
About:        Clothing brought from Russia becomes part of a treasured quilt passed down and used in different ways from one generation to the next. 32 pp; illustrations.

Dreaming of America: An Ellis Island Story
Author:      Eve Bunting
Grades:       3-5; younger for read aloud
About:        Annie Moore of Cork, Ireland was the first of millions of immigrants to enter America through Ellis Island. Realistic Fiction. 32 pp; illustrations.

Fire at the Triangle Factory
Author:      Holly Littlefield
Grades:       3-5
About:         Story of two fictional young immigrant girls who worked at the Triangle Shirtwaist factory since the age of 10 and lived through the tragic factor fire of March 25, 1911. 48 pages; illustrated.

All of a Kind Family series
Author:      Sydney Taylor
Level:          Grades 3-6
About:         The award winning, classic series about of five young sisters on New York’s Lower East Side at the beginning of the 20th century. Stories are rich with detail about life in the early 1900s and Jewish traditions and holidays. Excerpted from Amazon.
Staff Pick:   My favorite children’s books! As a child, I enjoyed the exploits of these 5 sisters visiting the Library Lady and Coney Isand and Papa’s junkshop, eating chocolate babies in bed, and otherwise growing up on the Lower East Side, circa 1914. Shared them with my daughters when they wee 6 and 8. Amy Stein Milford, Deputy Director.

Rebecca Series (American Girl Collection)
Author:      Elizabeth Partridge
Grades:       3-6
About:        The latest historical character in the American Girl Collection lives on the   Lower East Side in 1914, hopes to be an actress, and tries to balance an American way of life with traditional Jewish values. Series; illustrations. Excerpted from Amazon.

The Rise of David Levinsky
Author:      Abraham Cahan
Grades:       High School and up
About:        Abraham Cahan’s classic and celebrated novel of the Russian Jewish immigrant experience and the culture clash between old world values and new world life. 298 pp.
Staff Pick:   Fun, fascinating read about a Yeshiva bucher from Eastern Europe who becomes, what else, a scheming businessman in America. Amy Stein Milford, Deputy Director.

The Breadgivers
Author:      Anzia Yezierska
Grades:       High School and beyond
About:         An authentic and touching testament of the struggle of Jewish immigrants, especially Jewish women, to find their way in the new world.
Staff Pick:   I love this book, it is a tough story, written in the vernacular of Yiddish/English of my grandparents and gives a very vivid description of growing up on the Lower East Side and becoming a teacher.  I first read this book as a freshman in college and often assign it to my students when studying immigrant America. Hanna Griff Sleven,
Director of Family History Center & Cultural Programs.

Jews Without Money
Author:      Michael Gold
Grades:       High School and beyond
About:        A fictionalized autobiography about growing up in the impoverished world of the  Lower East Side in the 1920s
Staff Pick:   Another unglamorized book about growing up poor on the Lower East Side.  All our local streets and businesses are in here! Hanna Griff Sleven, Director of Family History Center & Cultural Programs.


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