In the New World:
A Family in Two Centuries
Finding home moving forward and looking back.
In 1869 the Peters family makes the difficult decision to leave their village home in Germany and start a new life in America. Leaving their friends and family was hard, but scratching out a living in the increasingly strained economy drove many Germans to the U.S. to take advantage of the Homestead Act.
Turning their frontier homestead into a working farm was a lot of work for the Peters family, but through many hardships they persevered, and the farm thrived for generations. The twenty-first century Peters family still lives on the same farm and in the same house near New Steinberg, Nebraska. Over the years they added acreage, equipment, and help. The old photo of the original Peters family, in front of their village home in Germany, still hangs over the fireplace in Nebraska.
Like so many Americans, today's Peters family wants to discover their roots. On a trip to Germany to see if they can locate their family's original village, they find their ancestors’ cottage and they touch their history.
Gerda Raidt’s illustrations nod to German folk art and are full of many details that show a family—then and now, changed and similar.
Look Inside the Book:
Author & Illustrator Bios:Gerda Raidt
Gerda Raidt studied graphic arts at Burg Giebichenstein University of Art and Design Halle and illustration at the Hochschule für Grafik und Buchkunst in Leipzig. Since 2004 she has been a freelance illustrator and has worked on numerous books.
Read more about Gerda.
Christa Holtei had a long academic career at Heinrich Heine University in Düsseldorf. Since 1994 she has worked as a translator and freelance author. She has a talent for explaining complex ideas to children in relatively few words.
Read more about Christa.
Booklist, starred review
In 1869, Robert and Margarete Peters emigrate from Germany to America with their two children. Taking few possessions, they travel by train, steamship, riverboat, and wagon to reach their homestead on the Nebraska prairie. They build a sod house first, but later they replace it with a sturdy farmhouse that remains in the family for generations. Almost 150 years later, a school project leads their descendants to look into their history. Intrigued by their ancestors who started the farm, the two children and their parents travel to their ancestral home. First published in Germany, this picture book offers a highly accessible, long-range perspective on the immigrant experience. The translated text reads smoothly and includes enough specific information about the nineteenth-century Peters’ lives to make their story gripping, while the shorter section on the modern Peters may lead readers to wonder about branches on their own family trees. At least half of each broad, double-page spread is given over to Raidt’s lively illustrations—detailed pencil drawings with subdued color washes. Page layouts are nicely varied, with short sections of text nestled alongside small pictures. On the endpapers, decorative maps show each family’s journey. Attractive and informative, this is a fine addition to the immigration shelves.
School Library Journal
This fascinating picture book blend of fiction and nonfiction uses the story of the Peterses, a made-up German immigrant family and their fifth-generation American descendants, to explore immigration in the 19th century. Through well-crafted text and charming, detailed drawings, Holtei and Raidt convey the severe economic conditions that precipitated the Peterses' journey in 1869. Charming panoramas of the Peterses' home and village and close-ups of their careful planning prepare readers for the trip's progression, including what items the family carried with them in the one trunk allowed aboard the Teutonia. Onward from their passage in steerage, the Peterses disembarked in New Orleans and transferred to the steamship Princess on their way to Nebraska. There they made their final connection to their new home via covered wagon. Well-written paragraphs expand on topics such as "Life in Steerage" and "Seeing the New World." The narrative then highlights the fifth-generation of Peterses, who traveled back to their ancestral home in Germany to uncover their history. This tale emphasizes the triumph born of hard work and industry, themes that reflect the experiences of many immigrants to America, and humanizes this period. VERDICT A thoroughly delightful and informative story that may even inspire some readers to discover the joys of genealogy for themselves.
This portrait of two generations of a family, separated by 150 years, provides a forthright account of the 19th-century German immigrant experience. Subheads break the text into brief blocks as Holtei (Nanuk Flies Home) details the particulars of the Peters family's 1869 move from their small German farm to the United States, explaining the financial necessity for their relocation, the hardships of the move, and the strains and rewards of their two-month journey to Nebraska. Raidt's (The Six Swans) crisp pictures, a mix of spot illustrations and dramatic wordless spreads, showcase a diversity of landscapes, from a bustling Hamburg port to the equally busy streets of post-Civil War New Orleans and the sweeping plains where the family builds its farm, thanks to the Homestead Act. A page turn brings readers to the present day, as the Peters's descendants travel to Germany to explore their roots. While this reverse journey doesn't get the same weight and attention as the first one, it draws a clear line between past and present that will likely leave children curious about their own family histories.
This import offers a straightforward account of the reasons why a German family immigrates to America and how they fare initially, along with a brief look at the lives of their descendants.
Raidt's conversational text begins with a brisk summary of the economic situation in Germany in the 1850s. This explains why the Peterses choose to leave behind family, farm and friends in 1869 in search of a new life in the United States. Blocks of text are accompanied by Holtei's delicately lined and colored illustrations; they are not etchings, but they recall Arthur Geisert in perspective and detail. These vignettes and double-page spreads add detail and assist in imparting information while also bringing characters and setting to life. Together, words and pictures outline the family's journey in the steerage section, their trip overland to Nebraska and their subsequent prosperity. Skipping several generations, their contemporary descendants are introduced in the final fourth of the book. Motivated by a school project, they reverse the trip and return to Germany to seek out the house from which their ancestors emigrated. Children are part of both families, and the present-day Peterses are a multiethnic family, both elements adding interest and appeal.
While social studies teachers and/or those of German heritage seem likely to be the most enthusiastic audience, the narrative style, informal tone and attractive artwork broaden it significantly.
The Bulletin of the Center for Children's BooksIn this fact-based German import, Raidt and Holtei follow the migration of Robert and Margarete Peters and their two children from Germany to Nebraska in 1869. The family is no longer able to raise a sufficient flax crop in their homeland to support the Peters’ linen weaving business. Lured by plentiful land in the United States, Robert and his wife decide to auction their property, bid farewell to their extended family, and make their way to Hamburg, across the Atlantic in steerage, up the Mississippi on a stern wheeler, across the prairie by train, to finally claim land in Nebraska. After five years of homesteading, they own their land outright and their family expands; 150 years later, their descendants make the reverse trip to Germany, hoping to locate the original house vacated by their ancestors. The picture-book format suggests a young audience, but vocabulary and attention to detail will recommend this to middle-graders who are studying immigration in social studies. Unfortunately, the Peters’ experience in Nebraska has been fortuitously condensed to the point of incredibility. Within their first year in America they have built a sod house, planted and harvested a crop, and built and furnished a commodious two-story wooden house, complete with outbuildings and fenced fields, and added another member to the family. Careful examination of the mixed-media illustrations rewards readers with insight into the social dynamics of mass immigration for the migrants, those they leave behind, and those who meet them. Older readers may appreciate the decades of social change that brought the Peterses—now a mixed-race family—back to their roots.
ISBN: 978-1-60734-783-5 EPUB
ISBN: 978-1-60734-782-8 PDF
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Page count: 40
Correlated to Common Core State Standards:
English Language Arts-Literacy. Reading Informational. Grade 1. Standards 1-8, 10
English Language Arts-Literacy. Reading Informational. Grade 2. Standards 1-8, 10