Book looks

Staff Writer
Columbus Parent

Just about Any New York vacation should include a stop at Ellis Island, which for more than 60 years was the main point of entry for millions of immigrants to the United States.

Waves of Austrians, Germans, Irish, Italians, Poles, Russians and more poured onto the island, once a landfill, in the upper bay of New York Harbor. All longed for better lives in the United States.

Raymond Bial -- grandchild of European immigrants -- has produced the informative, scrapbook-style book Ellis Island: Coming to the Land of Liberty (Houghton Mifflin, 57 pages, $18, ages 8 to 12). His narrative and many photographs and drawings capture the immigrant experience and show how Ellis Island, renovated and reopened in 1990, looks today.

Among the most heartbreaking stories are those of immigrants detained on Ellis Island. Doctors observed those climbing the stairs from the baggage room, making a chalk mark on the shoulder of any man, woman or child suspected of ill health. Immigrants could be detained for weeks or months and ultimately deported to the country they left. Eventually, the inspection process was transferred from Ellis Island to the country of departure -- but not before hundreds of thousands of people were denied entry to the United States.

The book is filled with black-and-white photos from the 1800s and early 1900s -- such as Alfred Stieglitz's The Steerage, portraying wealthy passengers on a ship's upper deck and the poor beneath them in steerage. Color photographs of artifacts and the renovated Ellis Island are included.

Bial, a photographer as well as an author, has written more than 100 books for children and adults -- including Tenement: Immigrant Life on the Lower East Side.