At Ellis Island : a history in many voices

Title: Ellis Island: A History of Many Voices

Author: Louise Peacock

Reading Level: 5.0

Schu’s Rating: 4 🙂 out of 4

Notes: The perfect book for an Ellis Island unit and for teaching students about quality journal writing.


In this historical fiction picture book, Sura, 10,  writes letters to her dead mother about her journey from  Armenia to Ellis Island. It brings to life a girl’s struggle to join her father in America.  Also, a modern day girl shares her grandfather’s journey through Ellis Island and brings to life the voices that dropped off their baggage in a chaotic room filled with a variety of languages. Immigrants proceeded to the great stairway where many were pulled from the line and tested for physical staminia. If you were lucky enough to make it to the Great Hall, you went through a medical exam,  a mental exam, and, at times, further questioning.  Of the nearly 12,000,000 people who passed through Ellis Island, an estimated 2% were sent back to their homeland. Too many found out the roads were not paved with gold. 😦  My students are becoming Ellis Island experts and preparing for an Ellis Island simulation. The most poignant story I read was of a young girl who was asked, “Do you wash the stairs from top to bottom or bottom to top?” She replied, “I did not come to America to wash stairs.” The girl was sent back to her home country. 




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