Hope in My Heart: Sofia's Immigrant Diary Discussion Guide
- Grades: 3–5
About this book
To the Discussion Leader
Through the gates of Ellis Island came thousands of immigrants anxious to cross the threshold of the Golden Door into a new life filled with hope and freedom in the United States. From its opening in 1892 on into the twentieth century, Ellis Island welcomed to America's shores such gifted people as songwriter Irving Berlin, comedian Bob Hope, and Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter.
In Hope in My Heart: Sofia's Immigrant Diary, Book One, Newbery Honor winner Kathryn Lasky begins the story of nine-year-old Sofia Monari and her family as they join 1600 other immigrants on the Florida leaving Italy for their new lives in America. Young readers will see Ellis Island through Sofia's diary entries. They'll experience Sofia's shock at being taken from her parents in this foreign land and placed in quarantine with no way to get help.
Sofia must confront prejudice, corruption, and greed on Ellis Island. But she also comes face-to-face with kindness, friendship, and her own inner strength. Hope in My Heart involves today's readers an exciting tale of intrigue and the sustaining power of love and family in 1903 America.
"I am thinking all the time how this is like a nightmare come true... I thought until now drowning was the worst thing I could imagine. But this, this quarantine is worse..." These are the words of nine-year-old Sofia Monari who has just landed in America after sailing with her family from Italy. When the Monaris arrive at Ellis Island in February of 1903, everyone is cleared for entry except Sofia. She is separated from her family and placed in a hospital for people considered too ill to enter the country. There, the nurses and doctors are either too busy or too mean to care about the patients; the food is strange; and Sofia feels totally alone. "To have no one to tell you where your family is or if you will ever see them again is indeed a kind of death."
Fortunately, Sofia soon meets someone her own age, Maureen O'Malley from Ireland. Even though they don't speak each other's language, they soon become great friends. Together they explore the hospital and befriend two of the other patients, Mr. Joe and Mademoiselle Coco. A mysterious visitor suddenly begins leaving treats for the girls, and they are determined to learn his identity. He is Rafi, a gypsy orphan boy, who "knows everything about the place."
As the days pass, Sofia becomes more and more frustrated. She says, "no one understands us... I cannot believe that these people are all human beings. Doesn't anyone believe that we are children, that we belong with our families?" When they learn that their identifying papers have been lost, Sofia and Maureen worry that they'll never leave the hospital. Then they meet Father Finnegan, a priest who investigates their situation, locates their immigration records, and arranges for them to be released. Sofia and Maureen are overjoyed to see their families once again! "At last," Sofia writes, "we are in their arms. Maureen and I are home and free at last."
Thinking About the Book
- Why did the Monari family leave Italy to start new lives in America?
- In her diary entry for February 8, 1903 Sofia writes, "I hate the Statue of Liberty." Why does she feel this way?
- Sofia dreams of her favorite foods. She has "tomato dreams" and "tortellini dreams." What would you dream about if you had a "favorite food" dream?
- Sofia first considers Nancy a "Nice Nurse." How does her opinion of Nancy change? Why? Later she says, "I guess Nancy really is on our side." What makes her feel this way?
- Do you think the actions of Sofia's new friend, Maureen O'Malley, cause the two of them to stay in quarantine longer than they would have otherwise?
- Why was Mademoiselle Coco placed in quarantine?
- Sofia keeps track of all the new English words she learns while at Ellis Island. Her diary also has Italian words. What do these words or phrases mean?
*un stommaco di ferro
*la campanella di Sofia
- What is the "thieves market?"
- Explain why Father Finnegan decides to stay on Ellis Island. How does he help Sofia, Maureen, and Mademoiselle Coco get out of quarantine? What role does Rafi play in all of this?
- In her diary entry for February 4, 1903 Sofia writes, "I hate feeling left out." With the other members of your Discussion Group, consider ways Sofia feels left out in this book.
- Why are the following important in Sofia's diary Hope in My Heart?
*Mr. Joe gypsy
*B for Battery
*locket on a chain
- One of Sofia's food dreams is about tortellini. Try making tortellini soup with help from an adult.
- On the trip over to America Sofia learns some facts about the Statue of Liberty. Find out more about this famous American symbol at the National Geographic Kids site. What other interesting information did you learn?
Discussion Guide written by Richard F. Abrahamson, Ph.D., Professor of Literature for Children and Young Adults, University of Houston and Eleanore S. Tyson, Ed.D., Clinical Associate Professor, University of Houston, Department of Curriculum and Instruction, Houston, Texas.