Cover image for Shutting out the sky : life in the tenements of New York, 1880-1924
Shutting out the sky : life in the tenements of New York, 1880-1924
Hopkinson, Deborah.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Orchard Books, [2003]

Physical Description:
viii, 134 pages : illustrations ; 23 cm
Photographs and text document the experiences of five individuals who came to live in the Lower East Side of New York City as children or young adults from Belarus, Italy, Lithuania, and Romania at the turn of the twentieth century.
Coming to the golden land -- Tenements: shutting out the sky -- Settling in: greenhorns and boarders -- Everyone worked on -- On the streets: pushcarts, pickles and play -- A new language, a new life -- Looking to the future: will it ever be different?
Reading Level:
990 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR MG 6.8 4.0 74048.

Reading Counts RC 3-5 4.9 6 Quiz: 33902 Guided reading level: T.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
HV4046.N6 H66 2003 Juvenile Non-Fiction Childrens Area
HV4046.N6 H66 2003 Juvenile Non-Fiction Open Shelf

On Order



In a stunning nonfiction debut, award-winning author Deborah Hopkinson focuses on five immigrants' stories to reveal the triumphs and hardships of early 1900s immigrant life in New York.

Acclaimed author Hopkinson recounts the lives of five immigrants to New York's Lower East Side through oral histories and engaging narrative. We hear Romanian-born Marcus Ravage's disappointment when his aunt pushes him outside to peddle chocolates on the street. And about the pickle cart lady who stored her pickles in a rat-infested basement. We read Rose Cohen's terrifying account of living through the Triangle Shirtwaist fire, and of Pauline Newman's struggles to learn English. But through it all, each one of these kids keeps working, keeps hoping, to achieve their own American dream.

Author Notes

Deborah Hopkinson is the author of such award-winning children's books as SWEET CLARA AND THE FREEDOM QUILT; GIRL WONDER: A BASEBALL STORY IN NINE INNINGS; A BAND OF ANGELS; and Dear America: HEAR MY SORROW. Her nonfiction books, SHUTTING OUT THE SKY, LIFE IN THE TENEMENTS OF NEW YORK, a Jane Addams Peace Award Honor book and an Orbis Pictus Award Honor Book; and UP BEFORE DAYBREAK, COTTON AND PEOPLE IN AMERICA, a Carter G. Woodson Honor Award winner, have garnered much acclaim.

Deborah lives near Portland, Oregon, where, in addition to writing, she works full-time as the Vice President for Advancement for the Pacific Northwest College of Art.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Gr. 5-12. In the tradition of Russell Freedman's Immigrant Kids (1980), but much more detailed, this history of the 23 million immigrants who came to New York City from southern and eastern Europe at the end of the nineteenth century humanizes the statistics by weaving together the personal stories of five young people with the social conditions that caused them to emigrate, what they left behind, what they hoped for, what they found, and how they changed America. Amazing documentary photos by Jacob Riis and many others, as well as riveting quotes from archives and memoirs, add depth and drama to the accounts of young people, from street to school to sweatshop. At 16, Marcus Ravage convinces his parents to sell the family cow to pay for his journey from Romania. Lithuanian immigrant Pauline Newman becomes one of the first women labor organizers. Italian American Leonard Covello is ashamed to bring his friends home, even as he learns that he can become American without rejecting where he came from. Meticulous documentation, including full chapter notes, will help the many young people--and their parents and grandparents--who will want to know more and to research their own family roots. --Hazel Rochman Copyright 2003 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

This chronicle of the challenges facing immigrants in New York's teeming tenements effectively employs primary sources to place a personal face on broader historical events, helping children make sense of the impressive statistic that about 23 million people came to the U.S. between 1880-1919, with 17 million entering via New York (the book ends in 1924, with the passage of legislation that limited immigration). Hopkinson (Fannie in the Kitchen) follows five transplants from Belarus, Italy, Lithuania and Romania who emigrated as children or teens (all of the subjects later wrote autobiographies or articles and speeches, which serve as the foundation for Hopkinson's text). Through them the author explores issues ranging from the bewilderment of greenhorns like 16-year-old Marcus, who didn't understand why his seemingly wealthy relatives ("[they] could indulge in the luxury of meat in the middle of the day") shared their apartment with half a dozen or more boarders, to the growing unrest of exploited laborers who gradually gathered the courage to agitate for better working conditions. She balances a highly readable discussion of change and reform with a look at the culture, joy and play that also characterized these vibrant communities. Throughout, period photographs ably support and highlight the text. Ages 8-12. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

Gr 5-8-Through the stories of five immigrants, the world of New York City's tenements in the late 19th and early 20th centuries comes alive with descriptions of the newcomers' struggles and triumphs as they attended night school, abandoned customs, or in other ways acclimated to life in America. Some came as children, others as teenagers, all eager either to succeed on their own or to help their families. Leonard Covello, who left Italy and arrived at Ellis Island with his mother and younger brothers six years after his father, became a high school principal. Pauline Newman began her working career in 1901 as a child laborer in the garment industry and later became one of the first women organizers of the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union. Citing sources, Hopkinson quotes frequently from her subjects' and others' writing, and provides a detailed and intimate picture of daily life in Manhattan's Lower East Side. The text is supported by numerous tinted, archival photos of living and working conditions. Although this book will appeal to students looking for material for projects, the writing lends immediacy and vivid images make it simply a fascinating read.-Carol Fazioli, formerly at The Brearley School, New York City (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Forewordp. vii
Voices in this Bookp. ix
Coming to the Golden Landp. 1
Tenements: Shutting Out the Skyp. 17
Settling In: Greenhorns and Boardersp. 33
Everyone Worked Onp. 47
On the Streets: Pushcarts, Pickles, and Playp. 71
A New Language, A New Lifep. 87
Looking to the Future: Will It Ever Be Different?p. 101
Afterwordp. 112
Timelinep. 114
Further Readingp. 116
Acknowledgmentsp. 118
Selected Bibliographyp. 120
Text Permissionsp. 123
Notesp. 124
Photo Creditsp. 130
Indexp. 131