7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #624: Featuring Amy June Bates

h1 February 3rd, 2019 by jules

“One morning, there was a big commotion on the boat. Gittel scrambled up on deck
to see what all the excitement was about. ‘Look, look.’ Everyone pointed
in the same direction as a great cheer arose. ‘There she is.'”

(Click image to see spread in its entirety and to read the full text)


Let’s take a look today at Gittel’s Journey: An Ellis Island Story (Abrams, February 2019), written by the prolific author Lesléa Newman and illustrated by Amy June Bates. It’s the story of a young Jewish girl who plans to emigrate to America with her mother, yet has to take the trip across the ocean alone. It’s based on two true stories from the author’s own family — a story from her grandmother’s childhood, in which she (her Grandma Ruthie) emigrated in 1900 from what she called the “Old Country” to America, as well as a story from a childhood friend of the author’s mother.

Gittel is reluctant to leave the home she loves, and the night before their journey she and her mother “gather in the Sabbath light,” sing a blessing, and dine together. The next day, as the girl and her mother attempt to board the ship to America, a nightmare unfolds for Gittel: a health inspector tells her mother she cannot board, due to an eye infection. Gittel’s mother implores her daughter to take the trip alone: “Home is not safe for us. You are going to America to have a better life.” She promises to join her daughter as soon as she can, and Gittel boards. “The ship was so big,” Newman writes, “it made Gittel feel very, very small.”

I won’t spoil the plot for you, but through the kindness of strangers, eventually Gittel and her mother reunite in America. The closing author’s note sheds more light on the true stories behind Gittel’s, as well as gives some historical context behind the plight of immigrants coming to America through Ellis Island between the end of the 19th century and the early to mid-20th century.

Newman tells this immigration story with tenderness and an eloquent lyricism. Bates’s lovingly-detailed watercolor illustrations capture well the time period and the inherent drama of Gittel’s journey. The intricate borders on each spread are beautiful. The title page spread alone is so lovely, I requested a copy of that, which you can see below — along with a few other spreads from the book.


Title page spread
(Click either image to see in its entirety)


“‘No, Gittel,’ Mama replied …. ‘We cannot bring a goat to America.'”
(Click image to see spread in its entirety and to read the full text)


“Mama lit the tall, white candles, and she and Gittel circled their hands three times
to gather in the Sabbath light. Together they sang the blessing
and then sat down to eat.”

(Click to enlarge)


GITTEL’S JOURNEY: AN ELLIS ISLAND STORY. Text copyright © 2019 by Lesléa Newman. Illustrations © 2019 by Amy June Bates and reproduced by permission of the publisher, Abrams Books for Youjng Readers, New York.

Note for any new readers: 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks is a weekly meeting ground for taking some time to reflect on Seven(ish) Exceptionally Fabulous, Beautiful, Interesting, Hilarious, or Otherwise Positive Noteworthy Things from the past week, whether book-related or not, that happened to you. New kickers are always welcome.

* * * Jules’ Kicks * * *

1) The awards this week were exciting. Congrats to all the newly-minted!

2) Dinner Friday night with two great friends at a new-to-me restaurant with EXCELLENT TACOS. (Band name. I call it.)

3) Tiny Ruins’s “School of Design.”

4) That feeling when you go to pick up a brand-new book at the library that you put on hold and have waited and waited for and it’s finally ready.

5) Good advice.

6) A Snow Day this week. (Very little snow, but we’ll take what we can get.)

7) A bit belated, but Paul Simon’s new rendition of “Can’t Run But.”

What are YOUR kicks this week?

11 comments to “7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #624: Featuring Amy June Bates”

  1. Don’t you just love the work of Lesley Newman? I will let my niece know about this book.
    Jules, I have my fingers and toes crossed for a snow day tomorrow.
    My kicks:
    1. Sunrise in the fog yesterday.
    2. Road trip to Seattle.
    3. Poetry workshop in Seattle.
    4. Saw On the Basis of Sex.
    5. Writing class.
    6. Writing critique group.
    7. The possibility of snow.
    Have a great week.

  2. Thank you for sharing this lovely work in words and art with us this Sunday, Jules. I know how you feel about getting a much longed for book at the library. The only two times I went out in the past eight days were quick trips to the library. We had three snow days this week due to bitter cold and loads of snow. Heavy fog now.

    I love all your writing, Jone. Wishing you well with those endeavors.

    My kicks this week:
    1. Stacks of picture books
    2. New to me middle grade series
    3. Deep snow
    4. Snowshoeing
    5. Heat
    6. Electricity
    7. My sweet canine companion, Mulan

    Wishing you all a warm, safe and happy week.

  3. What a beautiful journey! Thank you for sharing.

    Happy Sunday, Imps. May this month treat you wonderfully!

    Jules: Thanks for the music and the reminders, always.

    Jone: Hurrah for the writing, the travels, and the sunrise.

    Margie and Mulan: Hi to you both! Enjoy the books and the amenities.

    My kicks from the past week:
    1) Catching up with friends
    2) Good movies
    3) Good scripts
    4) Good words
    5) Good acts
    6) Good music
    7) Good

  4. Oh I love this story, especially since I got to see Lady Liberty from the ferry earlier in January & thought of all the people in history who gazed upon her as they made their way to new lives.

    Jules – hooray for excellent tacos with good friends and good advice.

    Jone – I’m hoping for that snow day too! How was On the Basis of Sex? (Its on my list to see.)

    Margie – snow days with heat and electricity and Mulan and picture books sounds perfect. So does snowshoeing.

    LW – What a good week!

    My kicks this week:
    1) Going to see a friend’s bluegrass/jug band play a local tavern – they were very good!
    2) Same night getting to have dinner with a friend to catch up while we listened to good music.
    3) Getting a good result for a client, always nice.
    4) Saw The Crimes of Grindlewald, it was quite good.
    5) Watched The Hate U Give and cried a lot, even though I had read the book and knew what was going to happen. Really bummed it didn’t get bigger award show love.
    6) Looking forward to a possible snow day.
    7) Giving things away and cleaning house for good luck to come in for the Chinese New Year on Tuesday.
    7.5) My Chinese New Year forecast for the Year of the Pig calls for lots kindness both coming my way and being extended by me – that’s a forecast I can wholeheartedly embrace.

    Happy Chinese New Year (early) everyone! Wishing you a week full of kindness and a year full of good luck!

  5. Margie, how fun, snowshoeing!
    LW, such goodness all around.
    Rachel, On the Basis of Sex was excellent.

  6. Really lovely work!

  7. Here I am, a bit later than normal!

    Jone: I saw on Instagram today (I think it was) that you DID get a snow day. Congrats! … Glad to hear you recommend the movie.

    Margie: I’ve given up on more snow (we did get that one Snow Day with hardly any snow); it was nearly balmy today. But maybe … who knows? Fingers crossed? I always enjoy seeing your pictures of all your snow.

    Little Willow: Thanks for the all-things-good kicks.

    Rachel: Did you get an actual off-work snow day, too? I love to hear bluegrass live; it’s my favorite kind of music ever.

    Have a good week, you all!

  8. And hi, Jessica!

  9. My kicks this last week and this:

    1. Leslea is a long-time member of my critique group and I saw this lovely book in all its stages.
    2. I had a board book accepted.
    3. I had a book turned down. Wait–that doesn’t sound like a kick. But to me it means I can move the book along to an editor who will LOVE it.
    4. My daughter began work on my new writing room. She’s a pip and the room is going to be perfect.
    5. She and I are getting ready to drive into New York this week for SCBWI where we are both presenting.
    6. At NY SCBWI I am also receiving th Golden Kite Award for my Holocaust novel, MAPPING THE BONES.
    7. We will have a passenger in the car–Leslea Newman. (Did you see how I did that?)

  10. Safe travels, Jane, and hello to Lesléa! As for your speech, go get ’em.

  11. Would like my e-mail address to be added to your mailing
    lists for blog, columns, etc. Thank you for any help you
    might give to facilitate this process! Thanks, Linda

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