Summary and book reviews of The House of Tailors by Patricia Reilly Giff

The House of Tailors

by Patricia Reilly Giff

The House of Tailors
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  • First Published:
    Oct 2004, 176 pages
    Paperback:
    Aug 2006, 176 pages

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Book Summary

In Dina, Patricia Reilly Giff has created one of her most engaging and vital heroines. Readers will enjoy seeing 1870s Brooklyn through Dina’s eyes, and share her excitement as she discovers a new world. (Ages 9+)

Sewing! No one could hate it more than Dina Kirk.

Endless tiny stitches, button holes, darts. Since she was tiny, she’s worked in her family’s dressmaking business, where the sewing machine is a cranky member of the family.

When 13-year-old Dina leaves her small town in Germany to join her uncle’s family in Brooklyn, she turns her back on sewing. Never again! But looking for a job leads her right back to the sewing machine. Why did she ever leave home? Here she is, still with a needle and thread—and homesick to boot.

She didn’t know she could be this homesick, but she didn’t know she could be so brave either, as she is standing up to an epidemic or a fire. She didn’t know she could grow so close to her new family or to Johann, the young man from the tailor’s shop. And she didn’t know that sewing would reveal her own wonderful talent—and her future.

In Dina, the beloved writer Patricia Reilly Giff has created one of her most engaging and vital heroines. Readers will enjoy seeing 1870s Brooklyn through Dina’s eyes, and share her excitement as she discovers a new world.

One

Outside was war. I could hear the pop-pop-pop of the cannons.

Inside was the sewing room. Gray cloth forms of Mama's clients stood along one wall, reminding me of the soldiers we saw on the streets outside, but without their spiked helmets, of course, or their splendid blue tunics with the gold trim.

War! How exciting it was. Our own German soldiers from the Fifth Infantry Regiment had swarmed into our sleepy little town, determined to take on the French who lived just on the other side of the Rhine River.

And that sparkling river flowed so close to our front door I could have tossed a stone from my window and seen the ripples it made in the water.

I didn't care two pins about our Otto von Bismarck and his determination to unite all of Germany in this war. What difference could it possibly make to me?

But I did love to think about those soldiers, who looked so fierce and elegant . . . and who wandered up and down the street so close to the sewing room that...

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Reviews

Media Reviews

Booklist - Ilene Cooper

Gr. 4-7. There are many books about immigrants in the U.S; the strengths of this one are its profuse details and its cranky heroine....Dina is not a stock character; she's a real child, who works hard, literally and figuratively, to find her way.

School Library Journal - Barbara Auerbach

Grade 5-8–This novel is rich with believable, endearing characters as well as excitement and emotion....Sprinkled with letters from home, the story captures the universal immigrant dilemma, "we would always have a longing to go back, and a longing to stay."

Reader Reviews

Osi

A house of Tailors
It is good book and adventurous.

............

Too rushed, and Dina is very whiny.
This book was not good at all! I read it for school, and i want to slap the author and protagonist in the face. First of all. Dina is a whiny little girl who doesn't want to sew anymore. She somehow is labeled as a french spy so she has to be sent to...   Read More

Addie Dean
A House Of Taylors is a book about a girl named Dina who lives with Taylors, her mom and her dear sister Katherina in the early 1870's. her uncle in America sends for Katherina, but Dina is being chased by two soldiers because they think she is ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

Patricia Reilly Giff, author of about 60 books for children, says that she tries to write books "that say ordinary people are special."  She says that all of her books are based in some way on her personal experiences, or the experiences of members of her family, or children she meets.  In an afterword to The House of Tailors she explains that the character of Dina is based on her great-grandmother, 'a loving, laughing woman...who was the heart of our family even long after her death'.
...

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