Ida’s Witness by Karl Beckstrand

Karl Beckstrand is a prolific author of children's books.  He has written 23 children's books and is always working on more.  Six of those books have been written in English and Spanish.  In previous posts, I've written about several of Karl Beckstrand's books:
🍎 Great Cape o' Colors, and

Grow! taught us about the fruit, vegetables, herbs, and edible flowers we can get from our gardens.  Great Cape taught us about color words in English and Spanish.  Highchair was a funny story about a food monster who lurks around the house.  In this post, we are going to take a look at Ida's Witness... a beautiful story about Karl Beckstrand's great-grandmother.  Keep reading to learn about Ida, the amazing woman she was, and to find out how you can use Ida's Witness in your classroom.

Learn about biographies and family trees while reading Ida's Witness by Karl Beckstrand, a true story about how his great-grandmother came to America.

Disclosure: Affiliate links to Amazon are included in this post.

Author's Summary

When young Ida contracts scarlet fever in 1880s Sweden, she almost loses her sight. After another brush with death, Ida learns that there is more than this life, disease has an end, and small miracles happen every day. With a new faith, Ida leaves her mother and brother and sails with her sister to America for a better life... free from poverty and persecution. But she knows no English. How will she share what she’s learned in a strange country? The prequel to Anna’s PrayerIda’s Witness is a delightful, inspiring story for all ages and cultures. Get this hybrid picture book about immigration, religious freedom, courageous women, and family history.

🍎 Title: Ida's Witness
🍎 Author: Karl Beckstrand
🍎 Date: November 15, 2014
🍎 Publisher: self-published
🍎 Pages: 36

Language Arts

Ida's Witness is a biography of Karl Beckstrand's great-grandmother, Ida Anderson. Before reading Ida's Witness with your class, take the time to explain what a biography is: 

A biography is a true story about a person's life. Biographies tell about famous people or ordinary people who have done extraordinary things. They usually center on one person's life and how they have contributed to the world.

Set the purpose for the language arts lesson... Ida's Witness is the true story of Karl Beckstrand's great-grandmother... what can we learn about Ida from reading this book?  What were some of the extraordinary things she accomplished?  How has she contributed to the world?  (example: She has inspired others to stay true to themselves and to never give up when facing adversity.)


We learned from reading Ida's Witness that Ida was born and raised in Sweden and immigrated to Idaho in the United States in the 1880s.  Pull out a world map.  Where is Sweden on the map?  Where is the United States?  Can you find Idaho on the United States map?  Airplanes and automobiles were still in their experimental phases in the 1880s.  How do you think Ida got from Sweden to Idaho?  (walking, horse and wagon, locomotive, and steamship)  What route do you think she might have used?

Map of the Americas 18th Century
(map of the Americas from that time period)

Culture and Religion

As your students read Ida's Witness, a couple of questions will surely pop up.  Students will want to know who the Latter-day Saints are and what testimonies and witnesses are.  I asked Karl Beckstrand about this and this is what he told me:
  • Latter-day Saints are Christians who believe that God continues to speak through prophets just like He did in the past.
  • Latter-day Saints are also known as Mormons.  The name Mormon comes from one of the religious texts they read... the Book of Mormon.  Latter-day Saints also read the Bible like other Christians.
  • Witnesses and testimonies are synonyms for one another.  A testimony or a witness is a profound religious experience people have and the stories surrounding them.
Depending on the age and maturity levels of your students, you can extend the class discussion further.  To learn more about the Latter-day Saints and better inform your class discussions, you can visit The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Learn about biographies and family trees while reading Ida's Witness by Karl Beckstrand, a true story about how his great-grandmother came to America.

Family History

Family is one of the main themes in Ida's Witness, if not the main theme.  Karl Beckstrand shared the story of his ancestors: his great-grandmother Ida, Ida's mother (his great-great-grandmother), and Ida's siblings, auntie, and cousin.  He also told the story of how they loved and took care of each other.  When talking about Ida's Witness, you may need to explain what the word ancestor means:

An ancestor is a person from whom one is descended. Usually, ancestor refers to a remote person, rather than the immediate parents or grandparents.  Ancestors are the people in our family who have come before us.

Have a class discussion with your students about their own families.  Do they know their parents' names?  Their grandparents' names?  Their great-grandparents' names?  Do they know where their ancestors came from?  Do they have any family stories they'd like to share?

Family Trees

After reading and talking about Ida's Witness and learning everything you can from it, having your students make mini family trees would be a meaningful culminating activity.  A family tree is a chart that tells the story of our ancestors.  Family trees show the names, birthdates, places of birth, etc. of the people who came before us.  

Learn about biographies and family trees while reading Ida's Witness by Karl Beckstrand, a true story about how his great-grandmother came to America.

To make mini family trees you will need:
  • blue, green, and brown construction paper or cardstock
  • scissors
  • glue
  • markers
  • precut apples or other fruit shapes (I found my pears at a dollar store.)
There really aren't any specific directions to making this type of family tree.  You can look at the photo and pretty much know what you need to do.  There is one thing you need to think about though.  What do you want your students to write on their fruits?  Depending on your students' ages, you can vary what they write on each one.  Do you want them to write the full names of their family members or is the first name only OK?  Do you want them to record their birthdates?  Where places of birth?  At the very minimum, your students should write the first names and relationships.  

Learn about biographies and family trees while reading Ida's Witness by Karl Beckstrand, a true story about how his great-grandmother came to America.

When I made my example, I purposely kept it simple: only parents, siblings, and grandparents.  No aunties and uncles.  No cousins.  No family pets.  (Trust me... your students will ask you if they can add their pets to their trees!)  Feel free to make your family trees as elaborate and detailed as you like.

(Ida's portrait, circa 1900)

If you could write a biography about anyone in your family, who would it be?  What if someone wanted to write a biography about you?  What would you want them to say?  Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Kelly's Classroom Online


  1. Thank you, Kelly, for your lovely commentary (and lesson ideas) on my family story.

    1. You're welcome, Karl. Ida's Witness is a beautiful story and I wanted to write something to honor and respect you and your family. I'm looking forward to reading and writing about Anna's Prayer soon too!