Book Reviews

Letters from Rifka by Karen Hesse

My edition: Hardcover library book
Pages: 148
Genre: WWI, Immigration, Racism, coming of age
Published: Jan. 1, 1992
Rating: 5 stars


In letters to her cousin, a young Jewish girl chronicles her family’s flight from Russia in 1919 and her own experiences when she must be left in Belgium for a while when the others immigrate to America.


I read this back in sixth grade. I remembered it as them escaping the Nazis, not the Russians. Sixth grade was almost seventeen years ago. That is how long I have been trying to find this book again. There for a little bit, I couldn’t remember the name but I could remember the cover. A picture of a bald girl holding the star of David.

Most people don’t know that Jews faced racism far before WWII and the Nazis. The Russians did not like them. They were blamed for everything. So during WWI, most Jewish men were more likely to be killed by their fellow soldiers than were by the enemy. Rifka’s family goes on the run to America to escape enlistment. Rifka tells of her journey to her beloved cousin Tovah who remained behind with her family.

I love the story of immigration told through the perspective of a twelve-year-old. Rifka’s story is not warm and fuzzy but it isn’t completely dark either. It is tragic. But so riveting.

… and from
The gloomy land of lonely exile
To a new country bad me come…

Book Reviews

Hatchet by Gary Paulsen

My edition: Hardcover Libary book
Pages: 208
Series: Brian’s Saga #1
Genre: Survival, Coming of Age
Published: Sept. 30, 1987
Rating: 4 stars


Brian is on his way to Canada to visit his estranged father when the pilot of his small prop plane suffers a heart attack. Brian is forced to crash-land the plane in a lake–and finds himself stranded in the remote Canadian wilderness with only his clothing and the hatchet his mother gave him as a present before his departure.

Brian had been distraught over his parents’ impending divorce and the secret he carries about his mother, but now he is truly desolate and alone. Exhausted, terrified, and hungry, Brian struggles to find food and make a shelter for himself. He has no special knowledge of the woods, and he must find a new kind of awareness and patience as he meets each day’s challenges. Is the water safe to drink? Are the berries he finds poisonous?

Slowly, Brian learns to turn adversity to his advantage–an invading porcupine unexpectedly shows him how to make fire, a devastating tornado shows him how to retrieve supplies from the submerged airplane. Most of all, Brian leaves behind the self-pity he has felt about his predicament as he summons the courage to stay alive.

A story of survival and of transformation, this riveting book has sparked many a reader’s interest in venturing into the wild.


The only reason I picked this series up is due to my husband. Wy is not a reader. He HATES reading. So when he says a book is good. You drop everything and go read it.

Early in the new time he had learned the most important thing, the truly vital knowledge that drives all creatures in the forest- food is all. Food was simply everything. all things in the woods, from insects to fish to bears, were always, always looking for food- it was the great, single driving influence in nature. To eat. All must eat.

This was good. I wasn’t fully in love with it but I did like the story. Also still trying to figure out how he made a bow. That is complex work. At least for my brain, it is. I loved the odds he was against and how he managed to problem-solve.

Now moving on to the next in the series, due to my husband’s guidance, I am skipping the second book. He said it’s bad and doesn’t really pertain to the series. I won’t miss anything if I pick up Brian’s Winter.