Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Bessie's Pillow {Strong Learning, Inc. Review}

During my high school years I developed a love of reading.  I enjoyed many many different types of genre's. Years later when I started home educating I was introduced to historical non-fiction books and it was love at first book.  Nathaniel and I have been reading Bessie's Pillow published by Strong Learning.Inc during our afternoon quiet school reading sessions.  What started out as a half hour an afternoon for me soon turned into a few midnight reading sessions.

About the Book
  • Title: Bessie's Pillow - A Young Immigrant's Journey (Based on a true story)
  • Author: Linda Bress Silbert
  • Publisher: Strong Learning. Inc
  • ISBN: 978-0-89544-201-7
  • Copyright: 2014 
  • Pages: 290
  • Available in English and Spanish.
  • Purchase as a paperback or kindle.
The Story
Journey with Bessie as she escapes persecution and departs from Vilna, Lithuania in 1906 to Hamburg, Germany by train.  Bessie courageously journeys across the sea on a ship spending the time learning to speak English as this will be the everyday language she needs to survive in America.  At the port of entry her name is changed as the passport officer says her own name will not be suitable any longer.

Bessie shares her struggles, her joys and her sorrows as she builds a brand new life in America. A beautiful love story unfolds as you discover life through the eyes of one immigrant who bravely came to America from Lithuania. She was only 18. A woman alone. An orthodox Jew. In the year of 1906.

Bessie's Pillow is written in the first person.  From her perspective, you will see the world through her eyes from the year 1906 to 1936.  It's a time of great change: new technologies,  the great depression, the Great War, World War II, cars, Suffragettes and medical technology. Bessie is courageous, she is independent, a business woman, she loaned people money to buy a homes, she paid kindness forward. 

The book is divided into five sections:
  1. Prologue: New Rocelle 1950
  2. Part One: Leaving Home 1906 - 1908
  3. Part Two: New Rochelle 1908 - 1925
  4. Part Three: Going On 1925 - 1936
  5. Afterword

The book is written by Bessie's granddaughter, Linda Silbert and is her first novel. All the events in the book are true. The book contains actual family photo's from Bessie's photo albums.

One word of caution:  This book contains some confronting moments and may have your children asking you some questions.  It is honest and contains scenes of things that happened to immigrants in the early part of the century.  I do advise caution for younger readers and would encourage you to read the book before handing it over to your children.

Bessie's America on page 257 contains historical information about immigration and America.  In 1906 along 215,665 Russian Jews passed through Ellis Island on their way to America. This section contains a comprehensive insight into immigration resources, museums, TransAtlantic Steamships, Famous people of the time (with short biography's), Food and Recipes, Health, Movies of the day, Music and Dance, all about New Rochelle, News, Historical moments, Influential Presidents during Bessie's life, Radio and Social movements during her lifetime.

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My thoughts
I have loved every word of this book.  I've cried, been heart broken, anxious, loved, smiled, laughed  and celebrated milestones with Bessie and her family.  I've been reminded that this was real life, and these are the realities of the forefathers of every family who have immigrated and gone before us to enable us to make a better life.

Bessie's Pillow is a beautiful book that every child should read.  It's a book of courage and love.  It's about life and paying forward goodness to all.



  1. I'm glad that the "real life" of my grandmother touched you. It certainly touched my life.

    Dr. Linda

    1. It touched me very deeply too :) Thank you so much for blessing my family with your book it is much appreciated.


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