ACROSS SO MANY SEAS review by Rdepaola
Age Range - 8 - 12
Genre - Historical Fiction
Five Star Award

LitPick Review

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Age at time of review - 30
Reviewer's Location - Massapequa, NY, United States
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Historian Ruth Behar, inspired by her ancestors, tells the stories of four Sephardic Jewish girls in three vastly different time periods and locations.  As the story unfolds, the reader sees the intergenerational connections among these four distinct stories. Benvenida, along with her family, is facing expulsion during the Spanish Inquisition from the only home she has ever known. She leads the reader out of Medieval Spain on an arduous journey to 20th century Turkey, introducing Reina. The cultural norms that she has grown familiar with are ultimately those that lead to Reina’s separation from her family, transporting her to Cuba. Here, it is ambitious Alegra who boldly embraces Fidel Castro’s Revolution. But, when things become unsafe for her and her family, they make a final journey to Miami. Now, in the 21st century, Paloma journeys back to Spain, the land of her ancestors. It is the artifacts dating back to the 1400’s that solidify what her ancestors endured and how far they’ve come, "across so many seas."


Pure Belpré winning author, Ruth Behar, recounts the grueling history of Sephardic Jews across a 500 year span. Beginning in 1492 with the expulsion of Jewish families in Spain, Behar’s four female characters tell their stories of love, loss, and family values. Each girl, only twelve years old at the time of their story, possesses a strong voice and deep morals. Behar uses variations of English and Spanish to depict the progression of time periods throughout the novel. In addition, societal and cultural norms evolve, assisting the reader on his or her journey through hundreds of years, at a rapid pace. Music is a central part of this novel, using lyrics of old songs to unify each story. It also symbolizes the courage of strong females who were not given the freedom to truly be themselves. The desire to succeed and be happy is prominent throughout, and the use of female protagonists amplifies this. A hauntingly beautiful addition to any historical fiction collection, Across So Many Seas, reminds us of a forgotten era and is sure to leave the reader wanting more.

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Content Rating:

Content rating - some mature content

Explain your content rating: 

Across So Many Seas is an excellent read for middle school students and beyond. There are themes of death, and family separation, which can potentially be triggering for some readers.




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