Tuesday, March 21, 2017

A Homeschool Crew Review~ Bessie's Pillow from Strong Learning, Inc.

Over the past few weeks, we have been enjoying the book, Bessie's Pillow, from Strong Learning, Inc. It's wonderful tale of a young woman as she immigrates to the United States during the early 1900's. Bessie's Pillow was a perfect book for us since we were heading into this important time period in our history lessons.

Strong Learning, Inc.
Strong Learning, Inc is a company that provides assistance with the 3 R's.....Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic. The company was started in 1966, by Doctors Linda and Alvin Silbert. They wanted to help children grow intellectually, emotionally, and socially. They offer a variety of resources for families locally in New York, Connecticut, and Massachusetts. They also provide numerous resources online. Doctor Linda Silbert wrote Bessie's Pillow. She is the granddaughter of Bessie Dreizen, who the book is about. It's wonderful that she shared her grandmother's life with us.
Bessie's Pillow

For this review, we received a physical copy of Bessie's Pillow. The kids and I read the book together as a read aloud. I wanted to be able to stop and talk about the chapters and answer any questions they might have had. This was a new time period for us and I really wanted them to see what the early immigrants and our early ancestors went through. It was a wonderful book to read  together and learn how our great nation grew.
Bessie's Pillow~ Immigration

Bessie's Pillow is based on the true story of Boshka Markman. Boshka Markman is one of many young Jewish girls that immigrated to the United States. Like many immigrants that arrived in the United States at this time, she was fleeing religious persecution, She joined thousands that fled in order to find a better life. A safe life filled with struggles and happiness.
At nineteen years old, Boshka leaves her home in Vilna, Lithuania. Lithuania is part of the Russian Empire at this time. The Jewish people are forced to live together like cattle. Young men and woman are faced with mobs, murder, rape, and death. Boshka was lucky enough to be able to escape this desolate place. She leaves behind her parents and four brothers. With a pillow from a family friend for a young gentleman in the United States, Borshka boards a train out of Lithuania leaving the world she know behind. Her journey has just begun.
Borshka's journey is long, challenging, and exciting all at the same time. Only the first few chapters in the book detail her journey to America. Her journey is filled with lots of new experiences. She is even given a new name at Ellis Island. Borshka is now Bessie. Like many immigrants, their names were to hard for the Americans to pronounce so they were changed. While traveling Bessie finds comfort in the pillow she was given to deliver to Nathan Dreizen.
Bessie does deliver the pillow to the handsome young, Nathan Dreizen. They become friends and eventually get marry. The majority of the chapters in the book deal with her life with Nathan and their children. I don't want to give too much away, but Nathan and Bessie are faced with many struggles and hardships as they learn to live in America. Many of the hardships are things we face today money issues, housing problems, difficulties raising children, and death. All throughout Bessie's journey and life, she amazes me with her constant spirit. No matter what life throws at her, she is ready and willing to meet it head on. She may struggle at first, but she pulls herself together and becomes even stronger. She is truly an amazing woman, an inspiration to us all.

 Bessie reminds me of my grandmothers. During their lives, they experienced so many ups and downs, but they never lost sight of what was important...family. I miss both of them tremendously. Reading Bessie's story, I could easily see my grandmothers in her. A daughter of an Irish immigrant and an Italian immigrant. I look back at what women like Bessie and my grandmothers had to face and I think they were made of different stock. They seem so much stronger than us today. The struggles and the heartache they experienced.  The fears and challenges they faced shaped them into the amazing woman they were.
Woman like Bessie are true ladies....strong, loving, and caring. These are the woman we need to admire. Woman that work hard, but do it with class. These woman are the role models are young daughters need to learn about and look up to.

For me, this book was awe-inspiring. It reminded me of my ancestors that came over many years ago. They left their family and country. They left their way of life and all they knew for a new adventure. I couldn't imagine having to do that today. They must have been filled with so much excitement, yet so much fear too. I don't know if I could have been that brave!
Therese was shocked by how young Bessie was when she traveled across the ocean to start a new life. She did have friends here to help her transition, but the journey over alone must have been scary. She was amazed at how hard she worked to just to survive. Life definitely wasn't easy for the new immigrants. She couldn't imagine traveling to a new country and not being able to speak the language. 
Michael enjoyed the story much more after Bessie met Nathan. He liked hearing about the lives of the men and how they made a new life here. They took the skills they had and flourished with them. He was impressed with how hard everyone had to work and how they relied on friends and family. There were no slackers. He thinks men and woman worked a lot harder than we do today.
Bessie's Pillow is a wonderful book that brings to life the story of an immigrant. We get to see Bessie's strength and courage throughout the book. I would recommend this book for families studying immigration. Students in grades 6th and up could easily read this book. The book does mention rape and murder, so it may not be a suitable fit for younger children. 

"Of one sort or another, no matter who you are, you will face many challenges, It is no different today. It will be no different tomorrow. But, whatever those challenges are, know that I am with you, as are countless others long ago.
All will be well. Happiness will come again."

I'm glad we read the book together! We were able to discuss the voyage over the ocean, the working conditions in the early 1990's, the segregation, religious persecution, and racism that existed then. The book allowed us to have many insightful conversations together!
An added bonus is the study guide provided on the website. It gives students the chance to learn more about Bessie's World! They can explore immigration, health, food (and try a few recipes), lifestyles (music, famous people, dancing, movies), see the news from that time period, learn about presidents, and more!

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

Till Next Time,

Please Note~ This post may contain affiliate links. If you choose to click on a link, add it to your cart and complete your purchase, I will receive a small percentage. We are very grateful for this additional source of income. Thank you. 

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  1. Such a good review! It looks like it'd be a great read for adults - not just kids. I will need to keep this in mind for a future read, if you think it'd be good for adults as well as kids?

    You have definitely piqued my interest!

  2. I'd never heard of this book. Thanks for the review! I love reading aloud to the kids, even when they can read by themselves. It's so good for them.

  3. What a lovely book! It will be perfect for us next year with our classical curriculum. Thanks so much for the recommendation!

  4. Wasn't that an amazing generation? That's why my mother wanted to share her mother's story. So glad you enjoyed it!

    Dr. Linda


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