Title: The Cat Who Escaped from SteerageThe Cat Who Escaped from Steerage
Author: Evelyn Wilde Mayerson
Pages: 66
Reading Level: 9-12
Star Rating: ★★★

An immigration story.

The Story.

Chanah knows she shouldn’t have the cat. But the cat was so sweet – and she looked lonely at the port in Marseilles. Chanah decided to take a chance and smuggle her onto the ship when Chanah and her family emigrate to America!

The plan works… partly. No one discovers Pitsel, as Chanah names the cat, but during a vicious storm at sea, Pitsel escapes from her basket and escapes from steerage!

Can Chanah and her cousin Yaacov find Pitsel before she is discovered by the officers?

Discussion.

So… Basically the story is kid isn’t supposed to have cat, kid loses cat, kid tears around ship venturing into forbidden class areas to find cat because she can’t alert adults to said cat, kid finds cat, kid is hero, end of story. Whala!

Okay, so that was simplistic. But sometimes simplistic is… well… simplistic. (And childishly simple.) #tintinforthewin That’s the story in a nutshell. Chanah has a cat which she’s not supposed to have. The cat escapes and rather than admitting that she smuggled a cat on board and asking her parents to help her, she sneaks off, without asking their permission, to search first and second class. She knows she’s not supposed to be there, and is warned several times not to try again, but she always tries “just one more time!”

In the end this backfires, though, because Chanah’s family has been lying about her cousin Yaacov, who is a deaf mute. Fearing that he will be turned back at Ellis Island because of this handicap, they claim that his throat is sore from calling geese in a windstorm. They are able to keep up this fraud until the officials notice him dashing around second class with Chanah. They decide to investigate, discover he is a deaf mute, and are about to reject him when Chanah saves the day by convincing them that he won’t be a burden to the state because he knows sign language.

Mayerson says that the children wore “garlic bags around their necks to ward off fever and vampires.” [pg. 4] And that Chanah “tied a red ribbon on the handle of the basket to protect her cat from the evil eye, which apparently worked.” [pg. 5]

One man says that “whoever thought of steerage should have his tongue sewn to his nose.” His wife responds that he should also “have all his teeth pulled except one, and that one should have a toothache.” [pg. 3]

Conclusion. So-so. Letters from Rifka and Fiona McGilray’s Story make for better immigration stories.

Review © 2014 Laura Verret

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *