Study Guide for Britta’s Journey
Suggested answers are in italics.


  1. Look over the cover, page through the illustrations, then read the introduction on page iii at the beginning of the book. What do you think this book will be about? Answers will vary.
  2. Make three predictions about what will happen to Britta in this story and share them with a partner. Answers will vary.


  1. Britta came from a town called Kvevlax, near Vaasa, Finland. If you have a map of Finland, try to find Vaasa and Hango (Hanko) along the coast.
  2. Where is Britta when the story begins? She is on a train from Vaasa to Hango.
  3. What does she remember about Johan before they left their home? Johan ran off and kept them from leaving, and he scared her by jumping on her.
  4. Why is she keeping her kitten a secret? She’s afraid her mother won’t let her have it.
  5. What excites her the most about going to America? She wants to see Papa.
  6. Britta has some fears. What are they? How does she deal with them? She’s afraid of the bears in the woods. She’s afraid of jumping from car to car. She’s afraid someone will spot the kitten. She’s afraid their boat might sink.  She forced herself to face them. Sometimes she prayed.
  7. Do you have any fears? How do you deal with your fears?


  1. How did Britta’s fear of jumping from car to car change as she kept doing it? She got more used to it and it scared her less.
  2. What two languages are spoken on the train? Swedish and Finnish
  3. Describe the inside of the train car. Brown leather seats faced each other. It had a wooden floor, and heavy doors led from one car to the next.
  4. What kind of a relationship do Britta and Johan have? How can you tell? They are like rivals, always bickering and fighting. Britta thinks her mother favors Johan, and he kind of picks on her.
  5. Why doesn’t Britta insist that Elsa use the toilet? She doesn’t want to force her to do something that scares her.
  6. What does Britta say to make Elsa feel better at the end of the chapter? She tells her that she has a secret to tell her.
  7. Do you think she is wise to share her secret? Why or why not? Answers will vary.


  1. The family arrives at the hotel late at night. Why does Britta wish her father was with them? She doesn’t think her mother knows what to do, and she thinks her father would take charge.
  2. Why do they have to sleep in the lobby? There are a lot more people than there are rooms in the hotel.
  3. How does Britta keep her kitten hidden? She keeps her in a cloth bag or in her pocket.
  4. Britta makes a new friend. How? She sees Hilda across the room when she’s looking for the kitten, and she smiles at her. Hilda gets up to follow her.
  5. How do you make new friends? Answers will vary.
  6. How long has it been since Britta saw her father? Four years
  7. Where do Hilda and Britta find the kitten? Outside the hotel
  8. Where are they traveling to in America? to Minnesota
  9. How did Britta feel about seeing the lifeboats on their ship, the ARCTURUS. It frightened her because it made her think of the ship sinking.


  1. Britta is traveling in an area of Finland that was once Sweden, so many of the people speak Swedish. Which language does Britta speak? Swedish
  2. Why is one family sent off to the side and not allowed to board the boat? Britta doesn’t know, but probably someone was sick.
  3. How much money does the family have to bring to be allowed in the U.S.? $30
  4. What does Johan want to do as soon as they get on the boat? He wants to go explore the ship.
  5. How does Britta feel about leaving Finland? She refuses to be sad about it, but she does have to blink back a tear. She’s sad to leave her relatives behind.
  6. What is Hilda’s idea for being able to play with the kitten out in the open? The girls could each tell their parents that it’s the other girl’s kitten.
  7. Hilda falls off the ladder. What two things cause that to happen? She falls because she’s wearing a skirt and because the boat is rocking so hard.
  8. How is Hilda’s personality different from Britta’s? Hilda is more outgoing and impulsive, while Britta is more responsible and serious.


  1. What is the biggest problem on the voyage from Hanko to Hull? The waves are high, so the ship rocks and everyone gets seasick.
  2. How does Britta feel about telling Mama that the kitten is Hilda’s? She has trouble telling her because it’s a lie.
  3. Do you think the girls’ plan about Lisel is a good one or a bad one? Why?
  4. Why does Mama cry as they see England in the distance? She’s both happy and sad. Happy to be on the way to Papa, but sad to leave her life in Finland behind.
  5. What does it mean to have “mixed feelings”? To have both good and bad feelings at the same time.
  6. What is a moon road? It’s the reflection of moonlight across water, like a lake or a pond.


  1. Why doesn’t Mama let Johan go on shore with the men? She’s worried about losing him because he always wanders off.
  2. How is the bread in England different from Finnish bread? It’s white and light, and Finnish bread is heavy and dark.
  3. Britta asks to have Hilda’s family join the Jacobsons. Why does she wish she hadn’t done it? She’s afraid they might talk about the kitten and realize that the girls are telling a lie.
  4. What does Britta do to keep her mother from talking about the kitten? She changes the subject from the kitten to how long the train will take to get to Liverpool.
  5. Why is Britta glad they have a man traveling with them? She is relieved to have a father around who knows what is going on. She doesn’t think her mother can handle things without a man.
  6. How long does it take the train to go from Hull to Liverpool? most of the day, about 6 or 7 hours.
  7. What does Mr. Toikenen do that Mama never does? He took charge and went to find out what was going on, while Mama waited for people to tell her what to do.


  1. How many days do they have to wait in Liverpool? 3 days
  2. How does Britta feel about waiting? How do you know? She’s upset at first. She cries and whines about wanting to see Papa.
  3. What is Mama’s advice to Britta about waiting? She says that life can be hard but that you have to face it with a good heart. She can look forward to exploring Liverpool with her kitten and her new friend.
  4. How can you tell that Mama looks on the bright side? She says their hotel room is better than a rug in the lobby or a train seat. She gets things set up so they can be comfortable.
  5. Who has to sleep on the floor? Johan
  6. How many loaves of bread do they have with them? 30
  7. What rule does Hilda’s papa set about walking in Liverpool? Why? Don’t cross the road. He probably did it for safety and so they wouldn’t get lost.


  1. What draws Hilda to cross the street? She’s drawn to a fancy hat in the window.
  2. Why doesn’t Britta know about watching for traffic? She lived in the country, not in the town.
  3. Why doesn’t Britta understand what the man says to her? He’s speaking English, and she only speaks Swedish.
  4. What is Hilda’s reaction to the accident? What does that show about the difference between Britta and Hilda? Hilda thinks it’s exciting and wishes it was her who got yanked out of danger. It shows that Hilda is more imaginative and adventurous, while Britta is practical and sensible.
  5. Why does Johan obey Mr. Toikenen but not his mother? He obeys Mr. Toikenen because he is a man.
  6. What happens to Elsa while they are standing in line? She is bumped in the eye by a man’s umbrella.
  7. Why doesn’t the man listen to Britta when she tries to explain? He doesn’t understand Swedish, and probably because she’s a girl, he doesn’t try to understand her.
  8. Why doesn’t Mr. Toikenen see them? He doesn’t look across the street, and there’s a lot of noise on the pier.
  9. What does Britta want Mama to do when they’re sent to stand aside? She wants her to argue with the man, to tell him what happened.
  10. What did Britta swear to do after they were left behind? She swore that she would learn English so she could communicate with people.


  1. Mama didn’t have money for the hotel. Why wasn’t that a problem? It was included with their ship ticket for up to a month.
  2.  What happened to the child who had measles? They took it to the hospital.
  3. Who first helped Britta learn English? The bearded man in the lobby, Siegfried,
  4. How did Britta go about learning English? She asked everyone “What is this?”, and she wrote down the words she remembered on some papers she got at the hotel desk.
  5. When Elsa got a fever, what was Britta’s first worry? She was afraid that it would keep them from going on the ship.
  6. Why were Mama and Johan so late getting back from the hospital? The cab driver took all their money and didn’t wait for them.
  7. What did Mama realize about Arvid at the end of the chapter? He had a fever, too. He probably had the measles like Elsa.


  1. What did Britta do to make sure the cab driver would drive them back to the hotel after bringing Elsa to the hospital? She got instructions from Siegfried. She gave the cab driver a note that said, “Wait here, please,” she had Johan wait in the cab with the driver, and they didn’t pay him until they got back to the hotel.
  2. Why couldn’t Arvid and Elsa be together in the same room at the hospital? They kept the boys and girls in separate wards (rooms) of the hospital.
  3. What took most of Mama’s time every day? It took her almost all day to walk the miles to the hospital.
  4. Describe Britta’s English dictionary. Do you think it will help her learn the language even if it’s not totally correct? It’s a bunch of pages with words scribbled on them. It should help her remember, even if it’s not spelled right. At least she’s learning some words.
  5. When Johan didn’t come home for lunch, what did Britta do? She went out to look for him.
  6. How can you tell that Britta is a worrier? She thinks that maybe he’s hurt or lost or has fallen into the river and drowned.
  7. Where was Johan? She found him on top of a building.
  8. What did Johan tell Britta about the orange? He told her that he stole it.
  9. If a person does something wrong, does it make everything all right to say “I’m sorry”? Answers will vary.
  10. What was Mama’s bad news about the twins? They both got the whooping cough.


  1. Why wouldn’t Mama use their money for a trolley (streetcar) to the hospital? She knew they needed the $30 to get into America.
  2. What was the bad news Siegfried shared with Britta while Mama was at the hospital? They had to start paying for their room at the hotel, and they couldn’t afford it.
  3. How did Johan step in to help with the problem? He remembered a railroad car that he thought he had seen people living in.
  4. How was Britta going to help with the railroad car? She was going to clean it up and make it homey with linens and flowers.
  5. When Mama heard the news, she gave all the credit to Johan. Why did she do that? She thought he had found it, and she always seemed to favor him because he was a boy.
  6. How can you tell that Britta is hurt by Mama’s attention to Johan? She started to cry, although she didn’t let anyone see.


  1. Mama made sure that Johan helped with the move. How did they move their things to the railroad car? They had to drag the trunks the whole way.
  2. The day after they moved in, Mama went to visit the twins. What did Mama want Britta and Johan to do? She wanted them to clean the railroad car. Johan had to go get water for cleaning.
  3. What did Johan do after he brought water to the railroad car? He ran off to go exploring.
  4. Why didn’t Britta open the letter from Papa? It was addressed to Mama and not the children.
  5. What did Britta notice about Mama when she returned to the railroad car? She noticed that Mama had grown thinner.
  6. How much money was in the letter? Two pounds
  7. How much money did Britta budget for food each day? She budgeted two pennies a day.
  8. How could they survive on such little food? They had their loaves of bread, and she would try to find bargains for them.
  9. How did Sarah Goode help Britta? She sold her the spoiled fruit and vegetables for a penny each day, and she also helped her learn English words.
  10. Now how long would the money for food last? It could last 100 days.


  1. How long have the Jacobsons been away from Finland? They’ve been away two months.
  2. How did Johan convince Britta to go look at the beautiful building? He told her that he was learning by exploring, and that it was another way to learn.
  3. What was the name of the building? St. George’s Hall
  4. Why do you think Britta gave the beggar woman two pennies? She was feeling happy.
  5. How much money did the children spend on candy? They spent two pennies.
  6. Explain how Britta’s candy choices were different from Johan’s. What does that show about their personalities? Britta chose long-lasting hard candies, and Johan chose chocolate and chewy candies. It shows that Britta thinks ahead and is practical, while Johan likes to enjoy the moment.
  7. What was the surprise that Mama had with her? Arvid
  8. What happened to Elsa? She had gotten worse and caught pneumonia.
  9. What is Britta feeling badly about? She felt bad about wasting 4 pennies that day.
  10. What is Britta’s reaction when Mama says they may have to go back to Finland? She says they’ll get to America if it takes forever. She feels really bad, though.


  1. How did Britta involve Arvid and Johan in her efforts to learn English? She taught Arvid some words and made up games with him. She tried to teach Johan words, but he refused to learn them. He did help her make maps of Liverpool, though.
  2. Why did Johan resist learning the language? He was stubborn and didn’t want to do anything that was important to Britta.
  3. What does Britta think the word “Luv” means? She thinks it means “girl”.
  4. What kind of stories does Britta entertain Arvid with? She likes to tell him stories  about what their life will be like in America.
  5. What things did Britta do to show her support for Mama? She got food and made meals, she made tea for Mama, she listened to her, and she encouraged her that things would turn out well. She also prayed a lot.
  6. When Mama came home after Elsa’s death, how did she try to console herself and her children? She said that Elsa was with God, where she would be happier.
  7. Britta offered to go talk to Siegfried. Why? To see if he could help them get a coffin when they had no money.
  8. Describe the day when they buried Elsa. How did it reflect their feelings? It was a gray, drizzly day. Their feelings were dark and gray, too.


  1. Who arranged to pick up the Jacobsons’ luggage for the ship? Siegfried, Britta’s friend from the hotel.
  2. Why was Britta allowed to go first in line? Her mother wanted her to go first because she knew some English.
  3. When Johan was upset about that, how did Mama compromise? Mama let him stand with her and hold the tickets.
  4. Describe The Baltic. It was huge with two mammoth smokestacks and thousands of portholes. It had five levels.
  5. Britta panicked when the doctor spent extra time examining Arvid. What did she say to get Arvid through the inspection? She told the man that he was small but not sick.
  6. Even though Britta hadn’t understood everything, they got through the inspection. What did Mama say to her afterward? “You did well, Britta. You make me proud.”
  7. Britta thought that once they were on the ship, there would be no more worries. Worries about what? There would be no more worries about feeding the family or getting sent back to Finland.
  8. Describe the steerage room the family stayed in. It was a long, whitewashed room with triple bunks along the sides, and portholes by the top bunks. There were tables and benches lined up down the middle, with little wood stoves between them. There were spittoons spaced along the bunks.
  9. While Britta helped Mama make up the beds, what did Johan get to do? He took Arvid to explore the steerage level.
  10. As they pulled away from Liverpool, they all went up on the deck. Why did Mama have tears rolling down her cheeks? She was probably sad to be leaving Europe, sad about losing Elsa, and happy to be finally on their way.


  1. Why do you think Mama is needing to rest so much? Maybe she was sad from Elsa dying, probably mourning for her. She also might be getting sick.
  2. What did Arvid show Elsa to do up on the deck? He showed her the way to get up to the second-class deck.
  3. Why didn’t the second-class passengers know they were from steerage? Lots of second-class passengers were dressed like them. They weren’t all rich.
  4. How was the second class deck different? It had nice wooden deck chairs and beautifully scrolled railings compared to the plain railings in Steerage.
  5. What did Britta miss about Finland as she watched the waves? She missed the meadows and trees and boulders of Finland.
  6. What game was Johan playing with other boys? He was playing shuffleboard.
  7. Why did Britta decide not to tattle on Johan for going up to the second class deck? She didn’t tattle because she had gone up there, too, and she wanted to be able to go back again. If she told, Mama might not let any of them go up there, and Britta hated to be disobedient.
  8. What made Britta think of Elsa? She saw some girls playing with a porcelain doll that she thought Elsa would have loved.
  9. Britta said she didn’t need a friend, but she seems to yearn for one. What is getting in her way of making anew friend? She’s very shy and no one pays any attention to her.
  10. What was Britta’s reaction to seeing the Swedish-English dictionary? She was dying to look into it.
  11. Why did Britta get in trouble when Arvid didn’t return from the deck? Was that fair? She got in trouble because she had been watching him. It wasn’t fair because Johan had said he’d watch out for him, then left him behind.


  1. What did Britta suggest Arvid do to keep from getting seasick during the storm? She told him to lie back with his knees up and think of happy things.
  2. Why was Elsa a happy thought for Arvid and a sad thought for Britta? Because Britta understood about death and Arvid really didn’t. He just remembered the happy things about Elsa.
  3. When Mama asked Johan to stay below deck, he insisted on going. What was Britta’s reaction to that? She got after Johan for only thinking of himself. Then she tried to console Mama.
  4. What was wrong with Mama? She was getting sick and had a fever.
  5. How did Britta think Papa would have made things better? Papa would have made the storm fun for them.
  6. When the doctor wouldn’t come to steerage, what did Britta do to help Mama? She stayed with Mama and put a cool rag on her forehead to ease her fever.
  7. How did Mama think she had caught a fever? She thought she had caught it from a sick baby she had been holding the day before.
  8. Although Britta didn’t understand everything the doctor said, she was able to communicate fairly well. What important thing DID she understand? She understood how and when to give Mama the medicine for her fever.


  1. How did Britta manage to get out of taking care of Arvid and Mama the next morning? She announced that Johan would have to take care of Mama and Arvid while she went up on the deck. She didn’t give Johan a chance to say no.
  2. Why did she want to get up on the deck? She wanted to see the Swedish/English dictionary and was hoping to find that boy.
  3. Was the boy with the dictionary eager to help Britta at first? How can you tell? He wasn’t. He was polite at first, but then ignored her as he studied his book.
  4. What was the boy’s reaction to Britta’s dictionary pages? He called it a mess.
  5. Why didn’t Britta take her dictionary pages and run away? She really wanted to learn more words and find out if the ones she had were right. She also wanted a friend.
  6. Why did the boy offer to teach Britta some more words? He was impressed at her interest and her effort on her own dictionary.
  7. Do you think Britta has a crush on Hans Erik? Probably.


  1. How could Britta tell that Mama was feeling better when she got back to steerage? Mama was sitting up and sipping some tea.
  2. Do you think Johan is jealous that Britta is learning English? Why or why not? Yes, because he makes fun of her friend who helped her, even though he doesn’t know it’s a boy.
  3. Why was Britta wondering about Hans Erik’s meals? She was just thinking about him and she figured he probably didn’t have to stand in line with his own cup and bowl.
  4. What did the steerage passengers have for lunch? They had bread, milk, and pickled herring.
  5. Why did Britta take the woman’s two children to the table? Because the mother was wailing and the children stood by confused by it. They didn’t understand that the baby had died, but Britta did.
  6. Why did Mama go to the woman even though she couldn’t talk to her? Because she understood about losing a child. She had lost four children already, and she had just lost Elsa.
  7. What did they do with the baby’s body? They buried it at sea, which was dropping the coffin into the ocean.
  8. What was happening on deck that cheered everyone up? There was music and dancing.
  9. Johan and Britta have very different approaches to dancing. How do their dancing styles show their personalities? Johan dances wildly and freely, while Britta stands aside clapping and tapping to the beat.  Johan is a free spirit, and Britta is a more careful, sensible person.
  10. Who did Britta meet during the dancing? Britta meets Hans Erick, who comes down every night to watch the dancing.
  11. What did she learn when she got back down to steerage? She learned that Arvid was sick.


  1. Why did Mama send Britta for the doctor? She wanted Britta to get more medicine for Arvid’s fever.
  2. The officer may have broken rules to take Britta up to the second-class deck. Why did he do that? He found out that her brother was sick, and she almost cried. He must have been very kindhearted.
  3. Describe the second-class dining room. It had stained glass windows and gas lamps and white linens on the tables.
  4. The doctor obviously recognizes Britta, and even though he can’t come down to steerage, what does he do for her? He gave her medicine for  Arvid and said he’d be down later.
  5. Britta and Hans Erik are actually becoming friends. Do you think it’s more than just a friendship? Why or why not? opinion
  6. Why do Johan and his friends taunt Britta? They were just being mean. Johan started it, but they all joined in.
  7. Did the boy mean to throw the pages overboard? How do you know? Probably not, but the wind took them from his hands. He might have meant to, but there’s no way to really  know. He said they were love notes.
  8. Does it seem like Britta’s reaction to losing the papers is a little too strong? Why did she get so angry? It does. She got angry about being teased, but more about losing all her work on the dictionary. English was really important to her, and maybe she reacted that way because everything had been so hard for the whole trip.
  9. How did Johan try to support her? He told the boy to give the papers back, then he tried to get her to come in out of the storm.


  1. Why did Britta run rather than listening to the announcements to go inside? She was too angry to care about anything.
  2. What was her first hiding place? First she hid in the closet that held the shuffleboard sticks.
  3. Why didn’t she stay there? She decided to try and get inside the ship.
  4. What happened as she was running to get inside? She got knocked down and was nearly swept overboard.
  5. What was she holding onto? She caught hold of the railing.
  6. Why did she want to reach the rope? She thought she could hold it to get to a safe place.
  7. How did Britta use her ingenuity to save herself? She watched how the ship was pitching and reached for the rope when it was tipped the right way. She also kept hold of the railing until she knew she had a safe hold on the rope.
  8. Where did she ride out the storm? She was in a little compartment (hold) that held the huge rope coil.
  9. What was Mama’s reaction to her experience and to losing her shawl? She said she was thankful to have Britta alive and safe.
  10. What did Britta realize about Mama? She realized that Mama was a strong woman who handled every crisis that came to her.


  1. Arvid was quite ill. What did the doctor suggest that they do for him? He said they needed to make sure they kept giving him water.
  2. When Johan apologized to Britta, what was her reaction? She finally agreed to accept his apology, but she said she would never forget what a cruel thing he had done to her.
  3. How had Britta and Johan changed on this trip? Britta was a little stronger and a little more assertive, and Johan was a little more thoughtful and kind. They had both grown up a lot in such a short time.
  4. What did Britta teach Arvid to say for Papa? “I love you, Papa.”
  5. Britta and Johan danced every night, but Hans Erik didn’t. Why? He was just too shy to dance. He liked to watch them, though.
  6. Who came aboard the day before they landed in America? A man who would pilot the ship into the New York Harbor.
  7. When Britta told Mama about landing, what was her reaction? She was so happy that they danced a jig together.
  8. When Johan discovered that they already knew, how did he feel? He was upset because he always likes to be the one with the news.
  9. What did Hans Erik give to Britta? He gave her his Swedish-English dictionary.


  1. Britta heard that the best-dressed passengers would be the first to leave. How did she misunderstand the meaning of that comment? She thought that if they wore their best clothes, maybe they’d be the first to get off. It really meant that the first class passengers would get off first, then the second-class passengers, and steerage (third class) would get off last.
  2. What were the “mountains” that Arvid saw? They were tall buildings.
  3. What thing were they all particularly excited to see? They were excited to see the Statue of Liberty.
  4. Do you think Johan and Britta worked well together in this chapter? Yes, they did. They stayed together as they watched the Statue of Liberty, they raced down to get the trunks together, and they worked together to get the trunks up to the deck and onto the ferry.
  5. Why was Britta upset when she realized that Johan didn’t have to go through the slow line she did? She was afraid that America would be a place where people with money would get all the best treatment, and poor people would struggle.
  6. How did Britta know that Hans Erik had planned to give her the dictionary? Because he had written a note in it for her.


  1. Who met the passengers at the dock? Men in blue uniforms met them to guide them through Ellis Island.
  2. How did they get their luggage to the top of the stairs? They had to drag it up there by themselves.
  3. What kind of check did they have to go through at Ellis Island?  They had to go through a medical check and a passport check, and they had to show their money.
  4. How did Britta help Arvid get through the inspection? She told the medical inspector that he was very seasick but not sick.
  5. What happened to Johan at Ellis Island? He wandered off and got lost.
  6. Where did Britta find him? She found him in the line for Swedish immigrants.
  7. Why had Johan left them? He thought he saw Papa and went to talk to him, but it wasn’t him. Then he didn’t know where everyone else had gone.
  8. What made Britta’s heart soar? Papa said she was a fine-looking girl and that he was proud of her for speaking English.
  9. What was Papa’s comment about Arvid? He said he was so thin and pale that he’d never live to become an American.
  10. How did Britta see her family differently now that they were in America? She saw her mother as stronger and positive, she saw Johan as a young man, and she saw them as a family unit rather than as separate people. She was very glad that they were all together again, although she was sad that Elsa wasn’t with them.


  1. What do you learn about each family member from the epilogue? They settled in Minnesota, and all three children lived long lives. Britta lived to be 78, Arvid lived to be 80, and Johan lived to be 89 years old.
  2. What can you do to learn more about your own family’s stories? Talk to people, interview older relatives, and research other people’s stories.