My 11-year-old daughter and I both enjoyed reading Bessie’s Pillow published by Strong Learning, Inc. This is the story of a young Jewish woman fleeing persecution in Eastern Europe at the beginning of the 20th century and starting a new life in America. The book is based on the life of the author’s grandmother as passed on by her mother.
I love historical fiction. This book is a cross between historical fiction and a memoir, similar to Little House On The Prairie. It is based on a true story but the memories in it were passed through two people before finding their way onto the pages, so it may not be completely accurate. I love this type of book for the historical overview it gives of a specific period in history.
I read the book first since I was not sure what to expect in a book addressing anti-Semitism and immigrant issues. Except for having to explain the word “rape” in the first sentence of the introduction, it was quite appropriate for her age and addressed many social issues without going into details that were beyond her maturity level. I really didn’t even mind having to explain given her age and the world we live in. Unfortunately, it is time.
I found the book very engaging and learned quite a bit that I didn’t know about the issues in Eastern Europe during that time period. The book follows Bessie from barely an adult to having adult children herself. She meets many challenges but also many joys along the way.
My 11-year-old really loved the book. She finished in it just a couple of days. She read every chance she got! It also sparked a good bit of discussion between her and I and her and my husband about the history and issues at the time (some quite similar to issues we still have today). This was a great way to teach and discuss how life was 100 years ago.
Check out this video for my daughter’s thoughts on the book:
In the back of the book, there is additional information about life in the early 20th century. There are pictures, links for further study, and written historical information on a variety of subjects including immigration, famous people of the time, recipes, health issues, movies, music and dancing, theater, radio, social movements and more! This information is also available in an interactive format on the Bessie’s America website. In addition to what can be found in the back of the book, the website has links to music and movies from the time, more pictures, information on looking up your own family’s immigration records and more. These resources provide enough material that you could create an entire unit study on the book.
This is a great book for anyone who enjoys learning about daily life in different time periods. The book is easy to read for a child without being boring for adults. I would say this book is great for children 10 and older. I think any younger than that the social issues may be a little difficult for the child to grasp if reading it alone. It would probably also work well for a family read aloud if used in conjunction with studying that period of history. Plan to have plenty of discussions about the content if reading it with younger children.
Have you read Bessie’s pillow? Tell me what you think in the comments!!
Click the image below to see other Review Crew reviews of Bessie’s Pillow: