What Was Ellis Island?

Written by Patricia Brennan Demuth

Illustrated by David Groff


January 1, 1892 was Annie Moore’s fifteenth birthday. She celebrated by being the first immigrant to set foot on Ellis Island. A long ocean voyage brought her from Ireland to a new life in America. Officials awarded her a ten dollar gold piece for being the first person to enter.

Interspersed within the narrative of the Island’s history and development are short two page biographies of famous immigrants who passed through Ellis Island, such as Golda Meir, Andrew Carnegie, Fiorella La Guardia, and Bob Hope.  Other interesting passages include diagrams of the ships who carried the immigrants, informative article about child labor at the time, the statue of liberty, and the kissing post.

Readers will also learn about the health requirements for entering the country and what it was like to be turned away and sent back across the ocean.

Pen and ink sketches help transport the reader into the story of what is now Ellis Island National Monument. It has become one of America’s most popular historic landmarks. Two million people visit each year.

This book is an addition to the popular series of Nonfiction books called, “What Was?”

These books are well designed to fulfill core curriculum standards in the areas of history and geography specifically, though they are also very useful for teaching how to read nonfiction, charts, graphs, and diagrams. Students introduced to one of these books might naturally want to continue reading through the set. Several more are planned for the coming year.

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  • Ellis IslandTitle: What Was Ellis Island?
  • Author: Patricia Brennan Demuth
  • Illustrator: David Groff
  • Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap, 2014
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format: Paperback, 113 pages
  • ISBN:  978-0-448-47915-6
  • Genre: Non-Fiction
  • Grade Level: 3 to 7
  • Extras: Bibliography, 16 pages of historic photos, timeline of the world, timeline of Ellis Island, related websites

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