Yossel’s Journey seems like, at first blush, that it will be a typical Jewish family immigrates to America. And while the characters of Kathryn Lasky’s latest picture book (due in September 2022), leave Russia due to the pogroms of the 1880s, and stop for a spell in New York where things are familiar (houses brush up against each other, you can smell the food your neighbors are cooking), they do not stay. They travel by wagon to the Southwest where they run a trading store, and the main voice, Yossel, learns that friendships are alike no matter what language you speak.
The friendship of Thomas (a Navajo boy) and Yossel, like all good storybook friendships has a few bumps (and a few four-legged mischief makers) the two learn how being different is not a barrier, just a way to understand the world. And if you look at things the right way, they are more alike than you might realize. And Yossel also learns that sometimes family is not the ones you were born to, but the friends you make along the way.
The illustrations of Johnson Yazzie are the real draw in the story by being a character themselves. Bright and bold without being overpowering or overwhelming, they pop. They tell the story as much as the longer amount of text. Both complimenting each other, the world of two families come together.
An afterwards by the author gives more background about the families who did not settle in the East, but like Yossel’s family, in the Southwest.