Thirteen-year-old Jessie lives with her grandmother in an Eastern European shtetl
, or village. The two are poor, like everyone else they know, but happy. Then one day the rabbi announces that his brother has died, leaving him one ticket to America. Since the rabbi feels he cannot abandon his people, he decides to give the ticket to someone who will truly benefit from it: Jessie. Despite the fact that they agree it is for the best, Jessie and her grandmother are heartbroken at having to say goodbye. Luckily, Jessie is not alone on the long ocean crossing. She befriends Lou, a young shoemaker, who helps her gain the confidence she needs to make her way in New York once she arrives. Jessie finds work in a dressmaker's shop, doing the intricate lace-work her grandmother taught her. Years later, on a winter day in Central Park, Jessie meets Lou again and their romance is rekindled. But love is to fill Jessie's life again in more ways than one: the years of hard work have given her enough money to send for her grandmother to join her.
This beautifully crafted book — a cross between a picture book and a chapter book — can be read aloud to younger children or read by older kids alone. Award-winning author Hest imbues her text with Jessie's mixed emotions of loss and hope, giving readers a strong sense of the familial love that continues to nurture the young girl from far away. Lynch's stunning watercolor and gouache paintings radiate light, whether focusing on the faces of her characters or capturing the atmosphere of a raging sea or teeming urban street. When Jessie Came Across the Sea is a rich, moving introduction to the immigrant experience.