The founders and directors of Strong Learning, Inc. are husband and wife team Dr. Alvin and Dr. Linda Silbert. They run a well known tutoring and publishing company in the New York City area. They offer assistance in the three R’s, SAT instruction, college and career advisement, and much more. Linda Bress Silbert has written her first novel. Bessie’s Pillow is dear to Linda’s heart because it’s based on the story of a dear loved one. We were sent a copy to review it for ourselves.
Bessie’s Pillow is a true story of a young immigrant’s journey to America. The book is best suitable for middle through high school students. Bessie’s Pillow is available in print for $15. There is an option for choosing the English or Spanish version. They also have a Kindle (e-book) version for $16.95. We were sent the print version to review. We noticed in the front of our book was Linda’s autograph. What a sweet surprise. That was the first time my son has ever had his hands on an autographed book from the author :-)
I had my 17 year old son read Bessie’s Pillow. He loves history and reading biographies so I figured he wouldn’t mind reading some Historical Fiction. This review will reflect what he shared with me and how the book was useful to us. After my son would finish reading a chapter I would have him give me the details of what he had read up to that point. Although I did not read the book myself, I learned a great deal through our conversations. I had him show me different parts he mentioned in the book and I would read them to be sure he had accurate understanding of what was going on.
Linda Bress Silbert is the granddaughter of the main character which happens to be Bessie. I learned that this story is written in first person because my son told me he was reading Bessie telling her story. Her birth name was Boshka Markman. She was an 18 year old Jewish girl from Vilna, Lithuania. Her family was facing hard times in Europe because they along with other Jews were being badly persecuted by the Russians. The only way for her to escape the harsh treatment was to leave and go live in America. This was a trip she would make alone. I could imagine it was really hard to leave your loved ones behind but Boshka’s father knew what was best. Before she boarded a train going to Hamburg, Germany a woman who knew her family named Chana Dreizen gave her a pillow that she had made for her son before he went to America. He had left it behind so his mother wanted Boshka to find him and give it to him. The pillow had a Yiddish phrase on it that Boshka did not realize would be of comfort to her. She had no idea how this pillow would lead her to the love of her life.
After traveling by train the rest of the trip would be by way of a ship. Once she reached Ellis Island and got off the ship her name was changed to Bessie. She was told it would be more suitable and easier to say than her real name. We joined Bessie in her journey of learning to speak the English language, finding a home and a job, making life for herself in America, as well as her joys, heartaches, and pain. Through it all we learned that Bessie was a strong and determined woman. She just would not give up.
Another thing I’d like to mention is a great resource of information over at Bessie’s America. Here you will see a study guide with the links that goes with the excerpts found in the back of the book. At Bessie’s America you can learn more about the times in which Bessie lived and all that was happening between 1906-1936. We had a great time seeing personal photos of Bessie’s friends and family. We really enjoyed learning about famous people during that time, who was the U.S. president, latest news, movies, music and dances, and how their family entertainment came by way of radio; not television like we are so accustomed to.
For even more in-depth study there is a section on the site for teachers with a 16 page downloadable teacher’s guide. This helps to you cover Social Studies and Language Arts while reading through the book. I liked having this resource to go along with the book. I also think it would be useful to have as a family read aloud and have discussions about the characters, immigration, loss, disease, learning the meaning unfamiliar or Jewish words, and using a timeline to learn some history. Thank you for taking the time to read my review. Other members of the Homeschool Review Crew also had a chance to review Bessie’s Pillow. Click on the banner below to read what their thoughts were.
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