Grade Level: 9 through 12
Journey to America
Students should be able to:
- Understand how life changed drastically for many families
- Recognize the hardships involved in emigrating and immigrating
- Understand the concept of being a victim
- Recognize what it takes to survive
- Recognize the creativeness and resourcefulness of people who were victims
- Identify immigration laws and recognize why they were in place
- Identify ways others helped, and those who did not
Sunshine State Standards:
View all Sunshine State Standards
- Grades 9-12
- SS.A.1.4.3, 3.4.9, 3.4.10, 5.4.2, 5.4.4, 5.4.5, 5.4.6, 5.4.7
- SS.B.1.4.3, 1.4.4, 2.4.1, 2.4.2, 2.4.3
- SS.C.1.4.1, 2.4.4
The story of a Jewish family who escaped from Germany to Switzerland and then to America shortly before the outbreak of WWII. Almost penniless, the family is forced to share cramped quarters in a rooming house. There is little money for food, and Margo deprives herself to feed her children. With no choices available, Margo makes arrangements with the refugee agency to place her girls with different families. The separation of mother and daughters is made even more difficult when Margo falls ill with pneumonia and must be hospitalized. Finally, news arrives from America that Arthur has sent the last necessary forms so that the family can buy their boat tickets. The family is finally reunited in their new country.
1938 causes Lisa Platt and her family to be increasingly worried about the Nazi Treatment of Jews in Germany. Her father goes to America to secure work and immigration papers for the family. The feelings and actions of family members encountering numerous hardships and finally getting to America during this period are eloquently explored.
Pre-Reading Activities and Discussion Questions:
Suggested Topics for Discussion and Responding:
- Do some research into the treatment of German Jews at this time.
- How do you think you would have reacted if you were a Jewish child living in Germany?
- What would you have found most difficult to bear? Why?
- If you had to leave your home and could take only five of your possessions with you, which would you choose? Explain why you would choose these items.
- Use a map to find the location of the action of the novel. As you read the book, trace the route the family takes from Berlin to LeHavre, where they get the boat to America.
- What it means to be persecuted and need to leave your homeland
- How people were creative and resourceful
- How children were forced to be responsible
- What it means to be separated and how people then found each other
- What hardships the father encountered
- How people make a new life after immigrating
- Why the immigration policy was so difficult
- What is your definition of courage? Do you agree with Clara that Arthur Platt has courage? Explain your answer.
- Write about a time when you were burdened with a secret that you could not reveal. If you can now tell about it, describe that secret and indicate what might have happened if you had revealed it.
- Write about a time when you believed you were in danger. Describe what was threatening you and whether or not you escaped the danger.
- Simile. A simile is a figure of speech in which a comparison between two unlike objects is stated directly using the words "like" or "as". For example:It had been a slow, gradual change, like a shadow crossing the sun, bringing a strange cold feeling that one could not quite explain.
- What two things are being compared?
- What is the effect of this comparison?
- Look back through the reading and locate other similes. Find a couple to share in your literature study group.
- Flashback. A flashback is a scene or series of scenes showing events that happened at an earlier time. At what point in "The Last Barrier" does the flashback begin? Why do you think the author chose to place the flashback at this point in the novel?
- Create a character web with words or phrases that tell about a character in the story.
- Compare and contrast Ruth and Lisa. Use a Venn diagram.
- In a novel the resolution is the part of the plot that presents the final outcome. The resolution shows how the conflict is resolved. What is the resolution of this novel? Were there any issues that were not resolved? What other outcome might the novel have had? Explain.
- Research Germany during the period described in the story.
- Journey to America is an autobiographical novel. Like the Platts, Sonia Levitin's family escaped from Hitler's Germany. Find evidence in the novel to support this statement by Sonia Levitan:
"To them I owe a great debt, not the least of which is my optimistic belief that despite evil in the world, there is goodness in great measure, and that goodness knows no boundaries of religion or race."
- What other incidents can you think of when people of different religions or races have helped each other?
- Research immigration policies at this time in history.
- Trace Lisa Platts' journey and that of her family.
- Discuss how the family overcame the hardships presented to them.
- What would one do today when faced with the danger's the Platt family encountered?
- What would you take on a journey, not knowing exactly where you were going? What three objects would you choose and why?
- Design a new cover for the novel. Make sure that the cover expresses an important aspect of the story.
Sonia Levitan. New York: Antheneum, 1970.
A Teacher's Guide to the Holocaust
Produced by the Florida Center for Instructional Technology,
College of Education, University of South Florida © 2005.