I am a lover of books, of all kinds. We love historical fiction at my house so I was thrilled to receive Bessie’s Pillow published by Strong Learning, Inc. to review. This book tells the tale of 18-year-old Boshka Markman as she immigrates to the United States from Vilna, Lithuania.
Being the book lover I am, I decided to read this book myself first. I have a 14-year-old daughter along with three sons who are 20, 18 and 16 respectively. Once I finished the book, we began reading it out loud together. From the moment I picked up the book until I finished it, it captured my interest. This is a true story of Boshka as told to her granddaughter Linda Bress Silbert from talking with Linda’s mother, Boshka’s daughter Ann Dreizen Bress. .
The story is one of a family forced to send a daughter across the seas to the United States in hopes of a better life.The story begins with Boshka saying goodbye to her family and a stranger giving her a pillow that ultimately influences the rest of her life. The pillow brings loves, loss, joy, and tears. Photographs are included at the end of the book and those photographs are captivating. As someone who knows virtually nothing about when my family came to the United States or the difficulties they endured, this real life immigration story captured my imagination and the photographs drew me in even more. This is the type of book, I would love to have in audio form for our family to listen to as we travel, especially to a homeschool convention or other destination that requires long periods of travel.
The website has a teacher’s guide along with other resources for readers or their parents/teachers to utilize. The Teacher’s Guide includes suggestions on how to use the book in classes. There are suggestions for Language Arts and Social Studies/History including discussion questions, research topics, themes, a timeline, a glossary of terms, and additional reading suggestions. At the website for Bessie’s Pillow, there is a wealth of information including: European Immigration, Famous People, Food and Recipes, Health, Housework, Movies, Music and Dancing, News, U.S. Presidents, Radio and even photographs. Here is a screenshot of the web page below. The final pages of the book also include additional information for the topics that are included on the website.
If your family has younger childern, or children who are more sensitive there are parts in this book that you may want to either skip over or discuss. Because it is a story about a real family, there are stories of heartbreak, violence, death and other topics younger children may have a hard time with or need to have discussed with them either prior to reading those sections or after reading them. With my children being teenagers or in his twenties, I found this book to be acceptable for all of them. This book lends itself to either being read alone or read aloud. My children have a way of putting emotion into everything they do, so hearing them read it aloud was a treat.
Because the book is told from Boshka, some boys may or may not care for it. However, with all of the male characters in the book, I think there is something everyone could enjoy. All ages could find something to stimulate learning and interest. I definitely recommend this book.
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