Sunday, April 26, 2015

In The New World: A Family in Two Centuries

In the New World: A Family in Two Centuries
written by Gerda Raidt; illustrated by Christa Holtei
2015 (Charlesbridge)
Source: Review copy provided by the publisher

The Peters family lives on a German farm in 1869. They plant flax and weave it into a thread that can be sold for use in clothing and bedding. Unfortunately, times are tough so that they are not making enough money to stay in their current position. Robert, the father, is reading in the newspaper about the availability of land in America. It's not an easy decision. Leaving Germany means leaving behind their family forever, but the opportunity proves too great to pass up. The Peters save enough money to book passage on a steamship headed for America. The trip is not always comfortable but the family lands safely in New Orleans. From there they take a steamship to St. Louis where members of the German society guide them toward the new railway that will take them to Nebraska. Finally, a ten day wagon trip will take them from Omaha to their plot of over 150 acres in New Steinberg, a community founded by German families. There they cut sod blocks to build a starter home until they can afford to build a wooden home. The Peters settle in and begin working the land. Spin forward to present day New Steinberg where Tom Peters owns his own farm and keeps a picture of his ancestors above the mantle. His daughter Olivia sparks an investigation into their ancestry that leads to a trip back to Germany to find the original Peters home.

If you teach about immigration, this book will be a terrific resource. It's a straight forward account that will teach readers about the pros (acquisition of land) and cons (leaving behind family forever) of immigrating in the 19th century. I really like the focus on transportation as the Peters family encounters several modes as they move from Germany to Nebraska. In the New World will also allow students to contrast the past with the present. This will lead to rich discussions about the hardships families faced in the 19th century.

In the New World connects the past and present in a way that will intrigue readers of today.

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