Bessie's Pillow

As a member of the TOS Homeschool Review Crew, we have been reviewing the book Bessie's Pillow--A Young Immigrant's Journey provided by Strong Learning, Inc. We received an autographed copy. 

This paperback book is based on a true story passed down through two generations. Written by Linda Bress Silbert, it is actually the story of her maternal grandmother. 

Bessie's Pillow

Do you know your roots? Your ancestry? Do you know just what combination your family poured into America's melting pot? I know I had some German ancestors and my Grandad's brother went there to visit cousins. I know both my maternal and paternal Grandmothers had American Indian roots. My Father's Mother and at least one of her sisters were members of the DAR, with documented proof tracing ancestry back to the American Revolution. And there are other places in my distant history, too, including Ireland. As a little girl, that was beyond my understanding. Now, I wish I had asked my grandparents even more questions.

I have a pillow my Grandmother made. And another much different made by my Granny. I treasure them both, but my story is much different than Bessie's. Her pillow gave her comfort and led her on a new path, long before it was actually her own.

Our family just finished rewatching the first Narnia movie. Just like in that series, Bessie's Pillow begins with a child forced to take a journey away from loved ones because of war. In this book, young Bessie leaves and travels on a ship to America because of the risk if she were to stay home in Lithuania during World War I. Before she departs, she is handed a pillow, and the story of the pillow blends with Bessie's own story throughout the book. 

My twelve year old son and I both enjoyed reading this historical novel. The perspective from which it was shared, first through a young girl's eyes then later that same girl but older, was more than an immigrant's tale. On the boat, the distinction among classes was vividly clear. Then again after she landed, the author painted a word picture that made historical New York incredibly realistic. 

Bessie's granddaughter, writing as Bessie, shared snapshots of America that were, to me, completely unknown. This isn't a happy story, but it is a series of glimpses of real life. My son said it gives us good insight into one person's experiences. Bessie is an affluent immigrant, so her view of others who are not is as enlightening to the character as it is to the reader. In her new country, desiring to become independent, her job seeking is interesting. 

My children's ancestry has another whole layer beyond mine that they get from their Daddy's family. He didn't have a family recipe for Baked Alaska, but learned to make it in high school. We now want to make it together after reading of it in this story. An abundance of resources like that including a study guide are found at Bessie's America. You can also connect with them on Facebook and Twitter

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

Strong Learning, Inc.

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  1. So glad that you enjoyed my grandmother's story and learned much about the world she lived in through the book and Bessie's America. Did you make the baked Alaska?

    Dr. Linda

    1. We both enjoyed reading your book. I was surprised just how much my son likes it as his preference is reading Star Wars fiction. Baked Alaska is still on our to-do list. Thank you for sharing your family and our nation's history in such a fascinating way. I'd like to read more books by you.


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