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"When a Russian pogrom burns her father's woodcarving shop, twelve-year-old Batya's family decides to move to America. Mama, Papa, Batya, older brother Avram, slightly younger sister Gittel, and four-year-old Sara board a ship for New York City. They experience seasickness, and little Sara becomes seriously ill. Although Sara recovers, she is now deaf. The family struggles in New York City to find work, make friends, and learn English in school. While skipping school, Batya finds a woodcarving shop full of men like her father, eastern European immigrants. In the shop, they carve beautiful carousel horses. Batya is a talented woodcarver, but as a female she is prohibited from the profession. Could things be different in America? This shop would be a perfect place for her father to work, but she found the shop skipping school--should she tell her father?
Early 20th-century New York City is beautifully brought to life through the eyes of a courageous, young, female, Jewish immigrant. Batya and her family are easy to love, and their various struggles engage the reader. This story teaches about many interesting topics: Russian pogroms, immigration, woodcarving, carousels, Jewish culture, deafness, gender issues, and much more." -- Elizabeth Caufield Felt, Historical Novel Society-- (8/4/2021 12:00:00 AM)
"Batya couldn't be a woodcarver back in the old country, but maybe she can be one in the golden land of New York City.
In 1915 Russia, 12-year-old Batya isn't allowed to apprentice to her woodcarver father. Her older brother, who lacks interest in the work, must nonetheless learn the trade. Batya's life turns upside down when pogroms descend on their village, making it unsafe for her Jewish family to stay in Russia. After a journey that's depressing and lovely by turns, Batya discovers she's miserable in New York. Her baby sister's gone deaf on the ship, the tenement they live in is ugly and cramped, and Batya struggles to learn English. Worst of all, there's no time to whittle, and Papa can't find a job carving, either. Eventually, Batya's misery leads her into adventures that improve not only her life, but also her whole family's. Her journey to become a woodcarver is framed from beginning to end with a lovely appreciation for the artistry of carousel horses. Some historical details are simplified, but for the most part these choices harmlessly ease the way for contemporary readers. Unfortunately, the narrative supports the urban legend that names were changed at Ellis Island by callous officials, which serves no storytelling purpose here. Non-English words are inconsistently italicized.
Charming, warming girl power in early-20th-century immigrant New York." -- Kirkus Reviews-- (3/1/2021 12:00:00 AM)
"Batya and her family live in a Russian shtetl. Her father is a skilled woodcarver and works in a Jewish owned woodcarving factory. Batya longs to be a woodcarver and loves to go to the factory and watch her father work, but she is told that girls cannot become woodcarvers. In spite of this Batya finds pieces of leftover wood and carves beautiful wooden animals for her younger sister Sarah. Following a brutal pogrom in the village and the destruction of the Jewish factory, the family escapes to America. McDonough describes the difficult sea journey in detail and how the officer on Ellis Island changes the family name from Breittelmann to Bright. Batya and her family settle on the lower east side of Manhattan. McDonough describes the lively sights and smells in the crowded streets of the city. Batya has not given up her dream of becoming a woodcarver. Although even in America girls are not allowed to enroll in shop classes at school. Batya convinces her teacher to allow her to join the class. Batya skips school and discovers a woodcarving factory at the last stop on the subway line, Coney Island. Batya's father gets a job working in the factory and after much persistence the factory owners recognize Batya's talents and ask her to be an apprentice.
The Woodcarver's Daughter introduces children to a period of contemporary Jewish history in a well-written, entertaining and detailed way. It begins with the story of ordinary shtetl life which is soon interrupted by a pogrom. The family endures a harrowing ship voyage and then must adjust to a new life. Batya, the main character, is persistent and overcomes the obstacles put before her." -- Ilka Gordon, AJL Newsletter, Beachwood, OH-- (2/5/2021 12:00:00 AM)