Thursday, March 23, 2017

Bessie's Pillow Review

Bessie's Pillow
I had the awesome privilege of reviewing Bessie's Pillow.  It is historical fiction based on a true story written by the granddaughter, Linda Bress Silbert, of the main character "Bessie." Both Linda and her husband Al are the owners of Strong Learning, Inc., a tutoring company in New York.  This book is a treasure trove of goodies.  It is an engaging story written in the first person and you quickly become attached to the characters and their journeys.
Strong Learning, Inc.
Based on a true story, Bessie's Pillow walks you through the life and struggles of the author's grandmother, Boshka (Elizabeth - "Bessie") Markman Dreizen.  In 1906, at the young age of 18, Boshka and her family have decided to send her to America for a better life.  There is much turmoil and persecution in her hometown of Glubokoye, Lithuania.  She leaves behind her father, mother, and four younger brothers. As a Russian Jew, she finds that even in America there are challenges to face. The story covers the time period between 1904 and 1936.  It was a Progressive era and much history happens during her lifetime.  You will follow her through wars, fashion, political events, social influences and cultural changes.

The story focuses on Bessie and her life in America but there is still a lot of history woven in throughout the book.  You learn her resilience and stubbornness to overcome the obstacles she faces.  Once she is settled she continues to face challenges throughout her life, but she overcomes so much and the story shows you that with hope, all things are possible.  Bessie never gives up.  She presses on, perseveres, and comes out victorious.  You live with her through jobs, marriage, babies, loss, death, joy, and success in business. Over time she brings her two eldest brothers to America and they also become successful in America.

Even my 13 year old son remained engaged with the story.  Most chapters are short and it is an easy read.  I felt it was a perfect story as a read aloud.  We read five days a week.  There are 40 chapters and we often read 2 to 3 chapters at a time.  Most of the times I would read, but he offered to read several times too (this is good for him because he generally does not enjoy reading aloud).  There is death and much sadness throughout the book, but there always remains a hope and perseverance that allows Bessie to overcome the obstacles. I think this is a good book for age 10 and above depending on the maturity of your child and ability to deal with death and loss. The lessons learned are endless and much can be gleaned from this book.  Not only are you getting a history lesson but character as well.  Themes covering honesty, integrity, compassion and perseverance are woven through the entire book. If you like Charlotte Mason type living books, you will love this one.

In addition to all the lessons learned from the story, there is a website, Bessie's America, that has a plethora of educational information, links and study guides.  Some of the links include:
  • Actual photographs of Bessie and her life and family
  • European Immigration
  • Famous People
  • Food and Recipes
  • Health
  • Housework
  • Movies
  • Music and Dancing
  • News
  • U.S. Presidents
  • Radio
Through the links there are many videos available that simply immerse you in that time era.  You can experience what it was like for Bessie during her time in America.  There are some great sources for American History and your children will enjoy learning about it. At the end of the book there is a section titled Bessie's America that has some of the same, but also additional, study helps and links to really dig deep into the history, cultural, and social aspects of the time.

You can download a teacher's guide that leads you through instruction in Social Studies and Language Arts.  The Language Arts section covers:
  • Analysis of Major Characters
  • Questions for Review and Discussion
    • Technique and Structure
    • Themes
      • Living Through Loss
      • Independence
      • Perseverance
      • Paying it Forward
    • Symbols
    • Oral History and Self-Discovery
The Social Studies section includes:
  • Questions for Review and Discussion
    • Immigration
    • World War I
    • Disease
    • Labor and Employment
    • Women's Suffrage
  • Research Topics
I really liked this book and highly recommend it!  I don't think you will be disappointed in what it has to offer.  A wonderful story filled with real life and so many resources for further study and learning.

You can also connect with Bessie's Pillow on FACEBOOK or TWITTER.

Read more reviews on this book from fellow crew members

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