When Jessie Came Across the Sea
Amy West, illustrated by P.J.Lynch
This is a beautiful illustrated book that captures the world of late nineteenth century and that of Jessie, a thirteen year old who travels alone to America to begin a new life. Strong themes within the story are to do with change, family, learning new things and resourcefulness. We see the Grandmother learning to read and write and Jessie learning lace-making and ultimately learning English: these all prove to be useful and important for the ‘happy ending.’ The reader feels a strong empathy with Jessie, when she has to leave her Grandmother and her home, for a perilous journey into the unknown. There are lots of opportunities for discussion, for example whether Jessie had and choice. This is a book that can be read aloud and reread, revisited in a variety of ways. The illustrations of street, shop and family scenes are rich and detailed; offering many opportunities for exploring what can be seen and learnt from the pictures. Connections can be made to the R.E and history curriculums. Teachers can discuss with children this period of history, the movement of many people from Europe to the ‘new world’ and the ways people would have to adapt.
* To read and discuss a book that is set in the late ninetieth century * To explore important themes like journeys, learning, family, resourcefulness * To respond to the issues and themes in the book through talk, writing and drama * To make links to and extend learning in History and RE
* To explore and respond to the illustrations
* To write in role with empathy and understanding
* Multiple copies of book for guided reading
* Information on and images of travellers to the ‘new world’ * Small books to be journals
* Scanned images of some illustrations:
The first scene of Grandmother’s house and garden
The scene on deck, Jessie lying down
Passengers leaning on the rail on arrival
Street/market scene in New York
Session 1, reading aloud and discussing responses
Have a look at the cover of the book and invite the class to think about what this book might be about. What kind of book do you think this might be? What makes you think this? Look at the picture, the title and the font used. Have any pupils seen the author or illustrator’s name before?
Read the story aloud, showing the pictures and spending some time talking about them. Give a few minutes for the children to talk to a partner about the story.
What did you like about this book? Was there anything that especially caught your attention? Was there anything you didn’t like?
Did you have any questions?
Did you notice any patterns or connections?
Use a chart with these headings on the flipchart or IWB and discuss each, taking children’s responses and jotting them under the headings. This will help you to begin to develop children’s responses to the illustrations, themes, characters and events in the story. Keep this chart as you can refer back to it and develop ideas from it: for example questions could be answered and patterns could be explored.
Session 2, responding to an illustration, writing in role
Use the scanned picture of the Grandmother’s cottage on the IWB. Look at it closely together. Ask the class to tell you what they can see and what it tells them about the how and when they lived. Read aloud the first two paragraphs, which talk of the inside of the cottage. Write around the picture all that the children say about the picture and what it tells them.
Reread the next page and talk about what the pair is doing. The children will notice that Jessie was right, Grandmother would want one day to read some things: and also Jessie would find it useful to be able to sew lace.
Ask the class to begin a journal that Jessie might write, to detail a typical day in her life and some thoughts...
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