Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Bessie's Pillow (A Homeschool Crew Review)

Every now and again, you pick up a book that typically you wouldn't pick up, thinking it's not your "type" and then you realize as you read the last word on the page that it was exactly what you wanted to read and wished there was more.  Such was the case when I was selected to read the book Bessie's Pillow published by Strong Learning, Inc.

Bessie's Pillow
A Young Immigrant's Journey
  • Author: Linda Bress Silbert
  • Publisher: Strong Learning, Inc.
  • ISBN: 978-0-89544-201-7
  • Copyright: 2014 
  • Pages: 290
  • Genre: Historical Non-Fiction/Biography
  • Printed in English and Spanish
  • Available as Trade Paperback or Ebook (Kindle Reader)

When I initially asked to review this book, I had my teenage daughter in mind to read it.  With immigration so heavy in the news today and playing such a role in our country's history and the fact that part of my mother's family immigrated here from Ireland, I thought it would be a great way to passively show her how it was for our ancestors and the others who passed by the Statue of Liberty in the early 1900's.

Unfortunately, my teenager being fickle as she is, she read about half of the book and it got tossed to the side for more "exciting" reads that fit her taste.  That meant that in order to do a proper review of the book, Mom would have to read it. I sat down on an early Saturday morning with my cup of coffee and got into the mindframe of reading a book that, admittedly, was outside of my typical reading genre. We all have reading preferences - I tend to read a lot of fiction being that I stare at schoolbooks day in and day out and want an escape. Reading non-fiction tends to be a chore for me.

I started reading Bessie's Pillow at around 10am that morning. By 2pm, I was more than halfway through the book and realized my own concern was would I be able to finish the book before dinner time when I would have to put it aside to prepare our meal.

Bessie's Pillow tells the story of a young 19 year old girl who immigrates from a poor town in Lithuania to New York City in 1906.  It follows her journey from the time she is about to board the steamliner destined for Ellis Island, her travels across the Atlantic Ocean, landing at Ellis Island and her life and the challenges that she faces once she arrives in a foreign country and makes a new life for herself.  She arrives to the United States penniless with only a few small bags of possessions and a handmade pillow that she was asked to deliver to the son of a woman she met before boarding the ship.
Bessie describes the world as she sees it around her, realizing that she has life much easier than many of the other immigrants who live in the surrounding area as she observes sickness and poverty that she has been fortunate to avoid.  That's not to say that Bessie has an easy life as the book tells of the devastating losses Bessie experiences in her own life and how those loses led to her learning to be self sufficient in a society where women were not typically expected to own or run businesses.
#hsreviews #historicalfiction #BessiesPillow

I couldn't put this book down.  My heart broke for Bessie many times but I was inspired by how she handled those heartbreaking situations and rose up from them.  Bessie was obviously a really amazing woman and I'm honored to have been able to be given an intimate glimpse in her life by reading this book.

Written by Bessie's granddaughter, Linda Bress Silbert, and taken from audio recordings of Bessie telling her story to the author's mother,  Bessie's Pillow is a story of love.  Love of one's family, love for the community around you, love of one's country, and love of one's self.   There's also romance (and even a love triangle to be honest.. lol)

In addition to the book, readers are invited to explore more on the website Bessiespillow.com . Here readers can listen to the author speak about the book, see photographs of the woman behind the story , read stories of other immigrants and learn about life in the early 1900's, such as about movies, housework, and news at that time.  Also available under the "Teachers" tab on the website is a 16 page PDF Teacher's Guide that offers suggestions as to how to use Bessie's Pillow in the classroom setting, with language arts and social studies ideas to adapt to the classroom.

 The Author Speaking about Bessie's Journey

This book is written for high school students and adults and I think it's perfectly appropriate for students of that age in order to give them a first person account of that period of time that a textbook just can't deliver.  Various social topics of that time are discussed, such as the differences between classes upon the steamliner, the treatment of women by men at that time, suffrage and woman's rights movements, mistreatment and the disadvantages of the lower/poor classes, ect.  While these topics are explained with a gentle hand in the story, they would make for great topics of discussion for older students.  I could also see this being a great read-together book with older elementary students and middle schoolers, so long as the parent is there to answer questions and help explain topics that might be a bit "old" for them to understand.  Right now, Ashleigh and Garrett are both a bit too young to really understand and appreciate the story but this book will remain on my bookshelf until they are old enough.  I do hope that my oldest decides to pick it back up and finish the story as well.

Bessie's Pillow is available in both English and Spanish and can be purchased as either a physical copy or as a digital book on the Kindle reader.

For more information about the book Bessie's Pillow and about Bessie herself, visit the book's website at bessiespillow.com or at their social media site one Facebook and Twitter. For more information about Strong Learning, Inc (the author's tutoring and learning services company and publisher of the book), visit their website at http://www.stronglearning.com.

Bessie's Pillow {Strong Learning, Inc. Reviews}

1 comment:

  1. I'm glad you picked it up Bessie's Pillow and enjoyed it.

    Dr. Linda


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