When I was a Jewish adolescent, I never saw myself represented in a story. In all the novels I read, the Jewish characters were hiding from Nazis. Not only was I minority in my community and school, but also in the books I read. I longed to see a character who happened to be Jewish and possibly taking part in some Jewish rituals, such as attending synagogue, celebrating Hanukah, eating matzoh ball soup, or even the conflict of dating a Gentile—while confronting the problems and challenges that all adolescents face. Luckily for the books I have read and recommended, pictured below—11 of the more recently-read are reviewed here—and others I have not yet read, today's Jewish youth can see themselves and their lives in a story and their peers can come to know them a little bit better.
ANTHOLOGIES: Coming of Age-13 B'nai Mitzvah Stories and Boundless; NOVELS: Falling Over Sideways A Place at the Table, Abby Tried and True, Lily & Dunkin, Get a Grip, Vivy Cohen, How to Find What You're Not Looking For, The Magical Imperfect, This Is Just a Test, Star Fish, The Truth about My Bar Mitzvah, Lucky Broken Girl, All of Me, Habibi, Color Me In, My Basmatiu Bar Mitvah, Not Your All-American Girl, Ronit & Jamil, Orchards, The Gray, Saving Red
BOUNDLESS edited by Ismee Williams & Rebecca Balcarcel
The U.S. population is undergoing rapid racial and ethnic change. The multiracial population in the United States—those who identify with two or more races—is also increasing with the rise in interracial couples. The children of these interracial unions are forming a new generation that is much more likely to identify with multiple racial groups. By 2060, about 6 percent of the total population—and 11 percent of children under age 18—are projected to be multiracial. (Population Reference Bureau)
Most of us have felt, from time to time, that we don’t fit in—with our peers, our communities, our families, even our own skins—for a variety of reasons. These are twenty stories of adolescents who don’t feel they fit in or they are not “whole” because they are multiracial or multicultural. Boundless shares the multiracial and multicultural experience of contemporary adolescents.
•Nina feels that she is not Asian enough to be a part of her extended family. “Sometimes I wonder of karaoke nights [with the family] would’ve felt different if I’d grown up where Dad did, around more people who looked like me. So many people in Hawaii are multiracial. It isn’t weird or different or ‘exotic’, like I’ve been called all my life.” (24)
•Amalia Lipski is Hispanic-Jewish. “By trying to hold on to those two identities, I feel like I’m doing a disservice to both. Like, I’m trying to find the right balance, but I want to be more than fifty percent Judia and fifty percent Latina. I want to be two hundred percent everything. I want to be more than what everybody expects me to be. I want to be…perfect.” (42)
•Tami is Japanese-Jewish. “I swore I wouldn’t…divide myself up. Not after I teacher called me half-and-half in elementary school…. Am I too much of something? Not enough of another? I know what I am not—whole.” (75)
•Irene is Mexican-Irish, “EE-reh-neh to my mom’s side of the family (the Mexican side); Eye-reen to my dad’s side of the family (the Irish side)…. My goal in life is to keep my head down.” (85) “There is no way to divide myself and put the pieces into nice little boxes.” (96)
•Eitan is Israeli-Mexican and feels invisible. “Was a person more defined by where they were born or where their parents were born? If some government or the other decided to take away either one of his nationalities, he would still be Eitan.” (124)
•Madison Rabottini is Italian-Chinese. “There is nothing quite like doing a Zoom party with the Italian side of the family to realize how out of place my brother and I look in box after box of curly hair and hazel eyes. Then we flip to a Skype of my mom’s side, and suddenly Dad is the outsider.” (140)
•Lydia is biracial, Indian-White. “There have been opposing forces within me for as long as I can remember. I am twins inhabiting the same body, two chemicals combined to form a unique reaction.” (277) “I am not Indian enough. Sometimes I don’t even feel American enough. I am not enough.” (280)
•Simone is biracial; Sean is of Honduran decent, adopted by an Irish couple; Trevor is Black-Puerto Rican; Jerry is Filipino White; and, after his death, Hiba Ahmed visits her father’s homeland, Jordan. “I just want to know more about where he was from. About where I’m from.” “349
Here are stories for those who have not felt “enough” for any reason. As I wrote in my review for Black Enough, this is a book that invites some adolescents to see their lives and experiences reflected and invites others to experience the lives of their contemporaries.
Anthologies should find their way into more classrooms and school libraries for multiple reasons. Short stories are an effective way to engage reluctant readers and help them build reading stamina, and anthologies are the ideal vehicle for introducing all readers to authors new to them, authors whose novels they may want to read next. Anthologies also can also offer a diversity of authors, characters, settings, and conflicts within one volume.
Readers can divide into Short Story Clubs (Book Clubs), each reading and discussing one of the stories and making a short presentation to the class who can then compare and contrast the stories and their themes and conflicts. The stories in Boundless would lend themselves particularly well to this activity. For more information and strategies for reading in Short Story Clubs, see Talking Texts: A Teacher’s Guide to Book Clubs across the Curriculum. -----------
COMING OF AGE: 13 B'NAI MITZVAH STORIES edited by Jonathan Rosen & Henry Herz
Reading this collection and some of the newer MG novels which include Jewish characters and their traditions and holidays, such as Falling Over Sideways by Jordan Sonnenblick, A Place at the Table by Laura Shovan and Saadia Faruqi, Get a Grip, Vivy Cohen by Sarah Kapit, The Magical Imperfect by Chris Baron, and Not Your All-American Girl by Madelyn Rosenberg and Wendy Wan-Long Shang, has been a unique experience for me. I was raised in a primarily non-Jewish community. There were seven children in my Sunday School class, fewer attended my elementary school, and only I attended my rather large high school. I felt “different” and certainly never saw myself as a character in a book. Even The Chosen by Chaim Potok, the “first book that introduced Jewish culture to a wide American audience” wasn’t published until I was in high school. The twenty years I taught middle school, my students only read about Jews who were impacted by the Holocaust.
In the Jewish religion a Bar Mitzvah (boys) and a Bat Mitzvah (girls) are the ceremonies during which 13-year-olds begins their journeys to adulthood and become full spiritual members of their religious communities. Each of the stories in Coming of Age: 13 B’nai Mitzvah Stories is literally and figuratively about coming of age, about accepting responsibility, finding strength and insight, and “striking a balance between caring for others and caring for oneself.” (128)
This collection included some of my favorite authors and introduced me to some new authors. The stories take place today, many decades ago (1970s) when the authors were 13, and on a fictious planet. A few stories were autobiographical, others fictional, and some, I suspect, were in between. Two stories include time travel as, in one, the Bar Mitzvah boy is tasked with helping the subject of his reading—Noah (Yep, that Noah).
This anthology is not a collection of tales about rituals, beliefs, and ceremonies as much as stories about having the courage to solve problems, know yourself, and show who you are:
Libby, a former victim of school anti-Semitism, finally trusts her new friends enough to share that she is Jewish. “I’ve found friends…. More than one. More than I hoped for.” (89)
Ruthie realizes, when holding her Bat Mitzvah during a pandemic in a parking lot, wearing a mask and a borrowed dress, “We Jews always find a way to form a community, gather together, and pray.” (100)
Schliamazel leaves his Bar Mitzvah, missing the opportunity to dance with his secret crush, to save an orphanage, and realizes, “It’s not really about one day. It’s about becoming responsible from this day forward.” (128)
Some of the stories are more universal, and some are uniquely Jewish experiences. There are stories that any adolescent can relate to—hoping to be chosen as a dance partner, not fitting into the family, and like Dani, who is bewildered about how she can deliver a speech on her Torah reading which is about the Ten Plagues and Moses’s reluctance to speak out, finally finds a personal connection. “I could do this. I could talk about stepping up, especially when you think you can’t, and leading your community.” (223)
Readers meet characters’ relatives and diverse friends, all types of families, and learn a little Hebrew and Yiddish vocabulary. And these are stories that will create empathy and understanding about peers who may appear “different” or whom readers have not met.
I promote using books as “mirrors and windows” and advocate for books with culturally-diverse characters to be included in community, school, classroom, and home libraries. I am delighted that my culture has finally been added to the offerings, especially with the current rise of anti-Semitism. -----------
A PLACE AT THE TABLE by Laura Shovan & Saadia Faauqi
“Elizabeth turns again to look at me, her face slightly shocked. I don’t think I’ve ever said anything much in class before. She gives me a thumbs up. Raising my hand in class, making friends with Elizabeth and Micah; I’m very different from the girl I was at the start of sixth grade.” (211)
“I have to talk to you. About what happened at the mall.… Sara is my friend. You shouldn’t have spoken to her like that. And I heard what you said to Ahsan yesterday…. There’s a difference between being mean and being racist, Mads.” (223-224)
Sixth grade is challenging. Sara had to leave her small Muslim school and enter a large middle school where the kids know each other and there are very few Muslim students. And to make matters worse, her mother runs the cooking club, teaching them to cook South Asian food from her native Pakistan.
The year becomes equally challenging for Elizabeth. She is the child of a British mother who has been depressed since her own mother’s death and a Jewish American father who travels all the time for his job. “Why can’t I have normal parents? A mom who remembers things like cookies for synagogue. A dad who’s home and can remind her.” (165) And her best friend Maddy becomes friends with Stephanie and begins spouting her parents’ racist remarks at Sara.
When Sara and Elizabeth become cooking partners and then friends, they both undergo change. Sara learns she doesn’t have to stay invisible, and Elizabeth learns to stand up for what she feels is right, especially for friends. “If we’re going to be real friends, not just cooking partners, that means we stick up for each other.” (149) Sara and Elizabeth may come from different cultures but they have much in common, such as mothers who are both studying to take their citizenship test. Children of immigrants in neighborhoods where the Christmas lights cover houses, they both feel different from those in their community, other than Micah, their Jewish half-Latino friend.
Through cooking and combining cultures for a cooking contest recipe, they discover friendship and that others, such as Maddy and Stephanie, are not always what they assumed.
Written in alternating chapters by two authors who mirror their characters, Sara and Elizabeth will help 4th- 8th grade readers build conversations about friendships, prejudice, and following passions. ----------
ABBY TRIED AND TRUE by Donna Gephart
Abby Braverman’s friend Catriella Wasserman moved to Israel the summer Abby turned twelve. An introvert, Abby only had the one friend. While kids at school didn’t exactly bully Abby, they didn’t take the time to know her, and the girls told her she needed to be more outgoing and that she probably wouldn’t speak up even to save someone’s life. Luckily Conrad, the eighth-grade boy who moved into Cat’s house, became a good and sensitive friend and possibly a boyfriend. And Abby had a close, supportive family—her two moms, her Jewish grandparents, and her older brother Paul.
“[Paul] was an extrovert. Being social was easy for Paul, and he already had two best friends, Jake and Ethan, to do everything with. Paul was not a turtle. He was an otter. Otters were fun and outgoing, Everyone loved otters.” (65)
But that summer another tragedy struck. As Abby wrote in her journal,
“One day my brother said, “I have cancer.” With those words—that one word-- Oxygen left the room Sound Molecules And then came back, forever rearranged, Nothing has been the same since. There is only before…and after.” (186)
This is a story of a young girl who is navigating the challenges of middle school, a new friendship and relationship, and the fear of losing her brother, frightened that the girls at school may be right, that she will be too scared to be able to help what it is necessary. But she learns she does have that courage: “Being brave is when you’re scared to do something but you choose to do it anyway because you know it’s the right thing to do.” (197)
This is one of the novels crucial to have in school and classroom libraries, to put into the hands of children who need it. Many readers will see themselves in this novel—whether coping with these same issues or others—and other readers will learn empathy for their peers who may be going through more than they know, hiding in plain sight. There are adolescents who are painfully shy or who lose their good friends and families living with a child who has cancer. As happens in adolescence, this is a year of highs and lows; fortunately, in Abby’s world, the good outweighed the bad.
Each year in the U.S. there are an estimated 15,780 children between the ages of birth and 19 years of age who are diagnosed with cancer. Approximately 1 in 285 children in the U.S. will be diagnosed with cancer before their 20th birthday. (www.acco.org) Although cancer in children is rare, it is the leading cause of death by disease past infancy among children in the United States. In 2021, it is estimated that 15,590 children and adolescents ages 0 to 19 will be diagnosed with cancer and 1,780 will die of the disease in the United States. Among adolescents ages 15 to 19 years, about 5090 will be diagnosed with cancer and about 590 will die of the disease. (National Cancer Institute) Young men between the ages of 15 and 35 are at the highest risk for testicular cancer, the cancer that afflicts Paul in the story. (Author’s Note) ----------
ALL OF ME by Chris Baron
Seventh grader Ari Rosensweig is fat, “so big that everyone stares.” (1) He is made fun of, bullied, called names. One time he is beat up, not even trying to defend himself. But he does make one friend, Pick, the only one who tries to learn the real Ari.
His parents fight. His mother is an artist, and the family moves frequently, his dad managing his mother’s art business. But when they move to the beach for the summer, Ari’s dad leaves and sees Ari infrequently.
There are times that you can just be who you are. There are also times when your body betrays you. There are times when you feel like you can’t stop eating, because eating is the only way you know how to feel right again. (67-68)
But that summer Ari makes two new friends. And as he has let the haters make him into who he is, he now allows Pick, Lisa, and Jorge help him “to find the real me.” (145) He also receives the support of the rabbi who is training him for his Bar Mitzvah, his conversion to manhood under Jewish law. “’Maybe,’ the rabbi says, ‘it’s as simple as believing that you don’t have to be what others want you to be.’” (225)
His mother suggests a diet, but it seems to be a healthy diet and he sheds pounds. This doesn’t look like me. It can’t be me. I don’t look like this, normal. (209)
On a camping trip with Jorge, Ari discards the diet book. I don’t see a fat kid, not anymore. I simply see myself. (267)
Finally, even though he has gained back some of the pounds (7 of them), he no longer feels like a failure because "it’s not about the weight”; it is about what the summer has brought: adventures, stories, and real friends. Just me moving forward, finding my own way. (311)
Told in lyrical free verse, this is a story that is needed by so many children. This is not a book about weight; it is the story of identity and friendships—and having power over what you can control. ----------
GET A GRIP, VIVY COHEN by Sarah Kapit
Things are changing, and it’s all because of baseball.” (39)
Middle-school student Vivian Jane Cohen loves baseball and wants to be a knuckleball pitcher when she grows up. This has been her goal ever since, three years before, she attended an Autism Foundation “social thingy” and met Major League pitcher VJ Capello who showed her how to pitch a knuckleball. “The problem is, I’ve never pitched in a real game. I don’t play for a team. And I don’t know if I ever will.” (1)
It’s Vivy’s mother who thinks that being the only girl on a baseball team would be too much for Vivy’s challenges. “My challenges. Of course. It always comes back to that, doesn’t it? And I do know I have challenges, but sometimes I feel like Mom doesn’t see all the things I CAN do.” (91) And her supportive father doesn’t speak up. And her big brother Nate, who says she throws a wicked knuckleball, has been MIA from her life lately.
As an assignment for her social skills group, Vivy has to write a letter to someone. She chooses VJ Capello (same initials as hers), and they soon start writing back and forth as Vivy, in letters to and supported by VJ, describes her journey after she finally convinces her mother to let her join the Flying Squirrels: bullying by the coach’s son, support from and friendship with her catcher, and the ups and downs of pitching well [“Could it be true? They weren’t staring at me because I’m weird, but because I can do something really well?” (106)] and pitching not so well.
Then Vivy is hit in the head with a ball and has to convince her mother all over again.
Through all her trials and tribulations, [It’s not like anyone ever told me that I’m brain-damaged or anything. But… normal kids don’t have to go to therapy and social skills group all the time. Normal kids don’t have mothers who worry about every little thing they do…. Normal kids don’t get called monkey girl.” (220)], Vivy is supported by the missives from VJ. “I know you’re facing difficulties that are somewhat unique…I can’t really say what it’s like to be an autistic girl on a baseball team. I’m sure it’s hard. As a Black, Ivy League-educated knuckleballer, I know a few things about being an outsider even on your own team.” (63)
When Vivy finds out why Nate has been so secretive, it is her chance to support him and his new relationship in the same way as VJ tells Vivy, “Just know this: You have another knuckleball pitcher rooting for you.” (50) ----------
HOW TO FIND WHAT YOU'RE NOT LOOKING FOR by Veera Hiranandani
"You used to be friends with more of them, but as everyone got older, they treated you differently. Maybe it’s because you’re the only Jewish girl in the sixth grade. Or maybe it’s because people think the way you write is weird. Or maybe it’s because you keep your hair short and you don’t like to paint your nails or wear dresses or makeup. It makes you wonder if there’s just one way of being a girl and if you’re doing it wrong.” (ARC, 72)
It is 1967. The Goldberg family is Jewish but had moved away from their Jewish neighborhood to a small town in Connecticut to realize their dream of owning a bakery and better schools for twelve-year-old Ariel and her 18-year-old sister Leah. When Leah meets and falls in love with an Indian-American graduate student, Raj Jagwani, her parents forbid the relationship even though the U.S. Supreme Court has just made interracial marriage legal in all states (Loving vs. Virginia). When Leah and Raj elope, Leah’s parents disown her. “…Ma told you that because Leah married someone who isn’t Jewish, she can’t be part of the family anymore; it was their duty as Jewish parents to reject her decision, Ma explained.” (ARC 75)
Besides the loss of her supportive sister, Ari has other problems: She feels like she is different and faces some anti-Semitism in her school. “What would it be like if lots of kids were Jewish at school and you didn’t have to explain that part to anyone? A feeling starts to float up your body, a lightness. Is that what other people feel like every day?” (ARC 145)
Ariel has trouble concentrating on her studies and finds handwriting very difficult. When a new teacher diagnoses her problem as dysgraphia, allows her to use a typewriter, and encourages her to write down her feelings, even just a few words, Ari discovers free verse and begins writing more and more. “It’s still so new, writing poetry, but it’s become a way to feel better, a way to feel free. It’s like finding something buried in the ground, thinking it’s a rock, then realizing it’s gold.” (ARC, 162)
With her one friend, Ariel decides that she will do whatever is possible to reunite her family before Leah and Raj’s baby is born and will stand up for herself at school, finding her voice.
This Sydney Taylor Book Award(for outstanding books that authentically portray the Jewish experience) 2022 Gold Medalist Middle Grades winner is a must for middle grade classrooms as a read for any readers who feel they don't fit in—in school or in their family—as well as those who gave faced prejudice in any form. It will also serve to promote empathy in those who have not faced the same challenges as Ariel and her family. ----------
ORCHARDS by Holly Thompson
According to the National Center for Education Statistics and Bureau of Justice Statistics, 28% of U.S. students in grades 6–12 experienced bullying. In surveys, 30% of young people admit to bullying others. In addition, a study in Britain found that at least half of suicides among young people are related to bullying and that 10 to 14 year old girls may be at even higher risk for suicide. As the social hierarchy intensifies in middle school, girls form cliques and can get meaner. PBS Parenting explains that much of this behavior stems from the intense desire to belong, the need to feel powerful, and the conditioning that many girls have to not express their feelings directly. Some girls function as leaders, others as followers, and the rest live outside the groups.
Kana Goldberg, an American middle school girl, feels guilty when Ruth, a classmate, commits suicide: should I have said something when I saw you at the mall? "should I have sat across from you at lunch in the cafeteria? should I have invited you to be in my group in science or my critique partner in art?”
Kana reflects on the social hierarchy in her eighth grade class who were “electrons arranged in shells around Lisa Becca and Mona first shell solid the rest of us in orbitals farther out less bound less stable and you in the least stable most vulnerable outermost shell.”
Lisa was mean to Ruth and “we all followed/ her lead.”
Kana’s Japanese mother and Jewish American father send her to her maternal grandmother’s mikan orange farm for the summer to “reflect in the presence of [her] ancestors.” While there she learns to farm, becomes part of the family and community, and learns the rituals of her Japanese culture, but most importantly, she reflects on her actions and those of her clique and thinks about Ruth and what happened and where to place blame because they didn’t understand her. “what I wanted to know was if depression is so common, if depressions was a possibility for someone like you, Ruth then why didn’t they teach us about it?”
She finally realizes that the list of what they didn’t do-- “end the texting talk with you laugh with you listen to you include you …seems so basic and short.”
There is another tragedy and through the rituals surrounding death that Kana practices with her relatives and the Japanese community, she returns home with ideas of ways to create a memorial to the friends who were tragically affected by the bullying—and to help, not just the girls but the entire 8th grade class, to “go on.”
It is crucial that adolescents experience bullying and the effects of bullying, not in real life, but through novels such as this verse novel by Holly Thompson. Novels such as Orchards will generate important conversations that adolescents need to have and share truths that they need to see; these stories provide not only a mirror to those who are similar to us but windows into those we see at different from us, and, even more significantly, maps guiding adolescents to how they should behave and how to work through conflicts and challenges and maps showing them where they may become lost. Novels can help readers gain knowledge of themselves and empathy for others. ----------
STARFISH by Lisa Fipps
As soon as I slip into the pool, Am weightless. Limitless. For just a while. (1)
Eliana Elizabeth Montgomery-Hofstein, know as Ellie or El, was re-named Splash by her older sister at her fifth birthday party when she joyfully cannonballed into the pool, her chubbiness causing a great splash. Since that day Ellie has been bullied by her classmates, her older brother, and, sadly, her mother who puts her on endless diets, posts fat-shaming articles on the refrigerator, decides what Ellie eats, plans to force her to have bariatric surgery at age 11, and referred to her once as “a big ol’ fat thing.”
Her only allies are her father, her best friend Viv and Viv’s mother, and the school librarian. She survives with her Fat Girl Rules—rules that help her to not get noticed, and with poetry and daily swimming. As I float, I spead out my arms And my legs. I’m a starfish, Taking up all the room I want. (41)
Even though her weight does not bother her, the constant bullying from family members, classmates, acquaintances, and strangers does. Ellie has trouble standing up for herself. But every time I try to stand up for myself, the words get stuck in my throat like a giant glob of peanut butter.
Besides, if they even listened, They’d just snap back, “If you don’t like being teased, Lose weight.” (4)
When Viv moves away, her place is taken by a new neighbor who becomes a second best friend and who shows her what a supportive family looks like. As a Mexican-American living in Texas, Catalina faces her own taunts and stereotype assumptions. “Stereotypes stink. They give people an excuse to Hate people who are different Instead of taking the time To get to know them.” (76)
At school there are the Mean Girls—Marissa and Kortnee —with lots of followers to do their bidding, like loosening the bolts on Ellie's desk.
Then Ellie gets to know Enemy Number 3, a male classmate who bullies her constantly, and finds that, living in poverty, he has challenges of his own and is probably fighting his own bullies. But I just don’t understand how Someone who’s bullied And knows how horrible it feels inside Turns around and bullies others. That’s pure garbage.” (150)
Ellie’s father takes her to talk to Dr. Wood, a therapist, and after her initial rejection (“Dr. Woodn’t-You-Like-to-Know) and many sessions, Ellie learns how to face her bullies, even her mother, and to discover feelings of self-worth and the importance of talk. “No matter what you weigh, You deserve for people to treat you Like a human being with feelings.” (179)
Ellie is an appealing character, witty and stronger than she knows and a true friend. I cried for her, I cringed for her, I hoped for her, and I cheered for her.
This is not as much a book about bullying but standing up to bullies and the value of not merely tolerance or acceptance, but respect. It is a book that belongs in every library to be read by those who need it—the bullied and the bullies and the bystanders—for empathy, self-worth, and respect.
P.S. Ellie includes a tribute to librarians (and any adult who notices and reaches out): It’s unknown how many students’ lives Librarians have saved By welcoming loners at lunch. (31) -----------
THE GRAY by Chris Baron [review "in press'] -----------
THE MAGICAL IMPERFECT by Chris Baron
A golem is a creature formed out of a lifeless substance such as dust or earth that is brought to life by ritual incantations and sequences of Hebrew letters. The golem, brought into being by a human creator, becomes a helper, a companion, or a rescuer of an imperiled Jewish community. --------- Stan Lee once said, “If you don’t care about the characters, you can’t care about the story.” And I do look for characters I care about; in fact; sometimes I just want to take care of them. Even though I fell in love with them, there is no need in Chris Baron’s new verse novel; the two main characters, Etan and Malia, take care of each other quite well.
Etan is part of a close community of emigrés from Prague, the Philippines, China, and other countries who, with his grandfather, sailed on the Calypso and entered America through the Angel Island Immigration Center in 1940. Etan needs the support of his community when his mother goes to a mental hospital and he loses the ability speak—except sometimes. In addition, his father appears to have lost his Jewish faith, and the community Sabbat dinners end. Etan finds comfort in his religious grandfather and his jewelry shop which appear to be the heart of the community.
Etan doesn’t play with the other boys at school since his mother left, and, when on a delivery errand, he meets Malia who has been homeschooled since she was bullied and called “the creature.” Malia’s severe eczema keeps her in the house or covered up from the sun with her Blankie. However, as he becomes friends with her, Etan believes that his grandfather’s ancient muds will cure Malia’s condition or bring a golem to help them out.
Etan, there are many things from the old world from your ancestors that we carry with us always. It’s our fire. Our light. But there are somethings from those times that are still with us. (114)
When the mud doesn’t work permanently, Mrs. Li tells Etan, Your friendship for this girl is the oldest and strongest form of medicine you can ever give her. Remind her that she is not alone. (161)
His grandfather agrees, …each of us has his own story. You have a chance to be the light, to help a friend. (178)
Etan helps Malia find her voice, and, when the earthquake nearly destroys the city, the community joins together, and Etan former friend Jordan and the bully Martin also contribute.
At the same time, his grandfather acknowledges that Etan is nearing the age of thirteen, the age of Bar Mitzvah and becoming a man, and he gives Etan family artifacts that he had brought from Prague to “connect you to the old world like a bridge, to remind you of where you came from and who you are, and that anything is possible.” (298) This gives Etan the idea of how to help put things back together. The old and the new mix together, making something completely new, making something together. (323)
Set during the October 17, 1989, San Francisco earthquake and the legendary Game 3 of the World Series between the Giants and the A’s, this story is magical but certainly not imperfect. A memorable story of friendship, community, Jewish traditions, Filipino culture, and healing. ----------