Immigration and Ellis Island Books for Kids

Why is America called the melting pot? Learn about the history of immigration and Ellis Island with these books for kids.

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Ellis Island Books for Kids: Grades 2-5

Meet Rebecca (American Girl)

Meet Rebecca, who learned about immigration at a young age. While living in Russia, her family finds out they are in danger and decides to escape to America. Rebecca wants to help her family and works to raise money for their journey. This American Girl story sheds light on the reality of immigration during this time and the way that kids often interpreted it. 

What Was Ellis Island?

Read about the island area that welcomed so many new people into our country. Learn of the way Ellis Island has transformed in the past decades to become the museum and popular landmark that it now is. 

National Geographic Readers: Ellis Island by Elizabeth Carney

Ellis Island wasn’t always the famous immigration station or popular museum that it’s so well known as. This book allows readers to explore the history of the island and what it means to so many. 

Coming to America by Betsey Maestro

This book of captivating illustrations brings Ellis Island and the story of immigration to life for young readers. Read about the history of the immigration process and the way that the many who made the journey years ago created such a rich heritage for our country. 

When Jessie Came Across the Sea by Amy Hest

This book dives deeper into the lives of those who arrived at Ellis Island by sharing the story of Jessie and her desire to make it to America, but remain with her grandmother. The illustrations within this piece bring us into Jessie’s story and the immigrant experience throughout that time period. 

Grades 4+

A House of Tailors by Patricia Reilly Giff

Picture 1870s Brooklyn as Dina lived it in this touching story of a girl whose just endured the journey from Germany to the United States. Read along as she pushes through homesickness and copes by digging into her talents. 

Ashes of Roses by MJ Auch

This novel discusses the opportunities available for those who came in through Ellis Island. Many immigrants, like Rose, were forced into poor and dangerous work environments. Read her story as she contemplates being thankful for new opportunities, but also being deserving of much more. 

The Orphan of Ellis Island by Elvira Woodruff

While on a field trip at modern day Ellis Island, Dominic finds himself alone and listening to the stories of those who made the journey to the famous immigration station. As he’s listening, he’s transported back to Italy during 1908. Read along as he discovers the life of a young man, one who he may be more familiar with than he thinks.

Bridge to America by Linda Glaser

Glaser provides a unique way to understand immigration in the 1920s through sharing Fivel’s story. Rather than making the trip himself, Fivel is still tied to immigration in America as his father navigates the new land. When Fivel and his family fail to hear from their father, Fivel fears what this could mean. 

The Girl in the Torch by Amanda May Dundas

Like many other immigrants, Sarah dreams of the freedom and opportunities that await her in America. As she and her mother cross the Atlantic, she becomes even more excited. Though, once they arrive on Ellis Island, Sarah’s dreams come to a halt when she’s denied entrance. Instead of feeling defeated, Sarah does the unthinkable, jumping from the boat she’s boarded back onto and into the water. She swims frantically towards Lady Liberty, towards her new life, hoping this dream is worth it. 

Letters from Rifka by Karen Hesse

As Rifka flees the Russian soldiers and cruel treatment of the Jews, she documents her experience, writing letters to Tovah, her cousin she left behind. This description of the life of an immigrant on their way and throughout their entry into Ellis Island is real and touching. 

Pick & Shovel Poet: The Journeys of Pascal D’Angelo

Pascal came to America at the age of sixteen, taking whatever job was offered to him, doing what he could to earn the opportunity of a new life. Read as he describes the way he endured manual labor and found his passion for poetry. 

Maggie’s Door by Patricia Reilly Giff

Nory and Sean are both on their way to America from Ireland hoping to find Maggie’s door. Maggie, Nory’s sister awaits their arrival to a new land and a new life. This book provides us with descriptions of the journey from both Nory and Sean. The way Patricia pulls readers in through multiple perspectives and the immigrant’s journey is exceptional. 

The Journal of Otto Peltonen by William Durbin (My Name is America)

Otto records his life in his diary. After making the journey from Finland, he now works in the iron ores of Minnesota alongside his dad, doing all he can to earn a living in this new land. Read as he describes his families struggles in the “Land of the Free.”

Dreams in the Golden Country by Kathryn Lasky (Dear America)

Zipporah, an immigrant from Russia, documents her experience in America. After she made the trip with her Jewish family, they settled in the Lower East side of New York City. The telling of her personal story will bring you right back there with her and leave you with so much to think about. 

Hear My Sorrow (Dear America)

Coal Miner’s Bride by Susan Campbell Bartoletti (Dear America)

Anetka is a 13-year-old who comes to America as a promised bride to a coal miner.

At Ellis Island by Louise Peacock

Sera, a young Armenian immigrant, finds herself at the gates of Ellis Island in the early 1900s. She hopes to join her father, here in the Land of the Free. Read her telling of the journey, excitement, and reality of immigration through many different voices in this book. 

Ellis Island: An Interactive History Adventure by Michael Burgan 

Experience Ellis Island as much as possible through this interactive history. Burgan depicts what the journey is like and the pressure once you reach the island to prove yourself in a way that grants you entrance. This book could lead to great discussion for families or class settings. 

In the Shadow of Lady Liberty by Danny Kravitz

Hear the accounts of many immigrants who gazed upon the Statue of Liberty with the same sense of hope on their minds. Kravitz’s writing allows readers to hear from many, providing them with an even deeper sense of what this time was like for the many immigrants who made the trip. 

Journey to Ellis Island: How My Father Came to America by Carol Bierman 

Jehuda traveled to America all the way from his home in Russia. Russia no longer feels like home, but more of a nightmare. The war that tore through the land claimed the lives of both his sister and father. Journey along with him as he arrives in New York City, hoping for a fresh start for his entire family. 

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