Archive for the ‘Jewish Identity’ Category

What About the Rest? Part III: Jewish Books for Teen Readers

With three 2010 Jewish children’s books at the top of my list: The Rooster Prince of Breslov, Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword and Life, After , and guilt over the excellent books I left behind dwindling as I report on my “pretty close to best” list, I am feeling excited about the close of the year. To date, I have provided three picture books: Emma’s Poem: The Voice of the Statue of Liberty, Jackie’s Gift, and Modeh Ani: A Good Morning Book, along with one book for Middle Grade readers, Sharing Our Homeland: Palestinian and Jewish Children at Summer Peace Camp. My 10 for 2010 list is up to seven. Here are the final three:

Jewish Books for Teen Readers (Young Adults)

This was a tough group as there were so many books to read and a number of excellent books to decide between for my “pretty close to best” list. In the end, it came down to “the rule” – those books I remember and will recommend. With that as my guide, it turned into a much easier task.

An Unspeakable Crime: The Prosecution and Persecution of Leo Frank by Elaine Marie Alphin. © 2010, Carolrhoda Books. Ages 10-18. A riveting account of the murder of Mary Phagan, a poor, white, 13-year-old factory worker from Atlanta, Georgia, and the trial of her accused murderer, Leo Frank, a 29-year-old, Jewish man from New York. I often had to stop and remember that this event actually took place on American soil in the 20th century. This is historical writing at its finest. Mesmerizing, factual, leading the reader step-by-step to the unfolding of a tragic occurrence in American history that began with the murder of an innocent child and ended with the murder of an innocent man. Photographs, newspaper clippings, primary sources and excellent research have created a fabulous tribute to a terrible story.

Annexed by Sharon Dogar. © 2010, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Ages 10-18. Historical fiction, based on Anne Frank’s  The Diary of a Young Girl, that lets us imagine the inside of Peter van Pels’ head as he lived in the Secret Annex with Anne and her family. The novel is excellent, the writing brilliant, crisp yet profoundly emotional. Peter is in the sick bay of the Mauthausen Concentration Camp, hours before Liberation, remembering his time in the Annex. Accompanying him in his memories, we feel his longing to be a regular teenage boy, his loneliness while surrounded by people, his wrestling with his faith and his desire to have some kind of intimate relationship before “the end.” The power of this story lies in our own memories of Anne’s diary, knowing the same people and what they meant to Anne, now seeing them through Peter’s eyes. Despite knowing the final outcome, the strong, powerful writing reminds us to keep our ears open listening for the voices of those who perished. We must never forget.

Hush by Eishes Chayil. © 2010, Walker & Company. Ages 14-18. In an ultra-Orthodox community in Brooklyn, NY 10-year-old Devory is being repeatedly raped by her yeshiva-bocher brother. During a Shabbat sleepover, her best friend, Gittel pretends she is sleeping, but witnesses one of these events. Despite what she saw and heard with her own eyes and ears, Gittel is told that her experience was a “story” created by her mentally disturbed friend. When Devory commits suicide, her family and the community does everything possible to put the matter behind them, until Gittel, now 18, marries. Suddenly, her memories of that fateful night reawaken as she begins to have sexual relations with her new husband. Realizing the great injustice done to her best friend, she is determined to make it right. This story about allowing tradition and religious devotion to take precedence over common sense and morality, about worrying more about “what the neighbors will think” than “what is best for my child,” is not just about an ultra-Orthodox community in Brooklyn, NY. It could be a story about an Irish Catholic community in Boston, MA, a Mormon Community in Provo, UT or a Southern Baptist community in Hartsville, TN. Our challenge is to LISTEN to and BELIEVE our children when they speak to us.  Kol Ha Kavod Eishes Chayil and Walker & Company for bringing this story to light. It needed telling and not just to Jews.

Those are my picks for “pretty close to best” 2010 Jewish Books for Teen Readers, thus finishing my 10 for 2010.  The entire list represents a wide spectrum of Jewish history, Jewish life, Jewish story and Jewish experience much like the Jewish people today – diverse, vocal and strong.

I will continue to read, dream and look forward to your comments. I wish you all a happy and healthy 2011.

Happy Reading,

Kathy B.

©2010 Kathleen M. Bloomfield and all rights reserved.
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Book Review | Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword
by Barry Deutsch

Score: 5

© 2010, Amulet Books. I will admit that every Jewish graphic novel I review has to pass my Maus test. I know, that is probably unfair, since Maus is an adult book, and it won a Pulitzer Prize. However, Art Spiegelman set a standard many years ago, and my belief has always been that Jewish [...]

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Book Review | Life, After
by Sarah Darer Littman

Score: 5

© 2010, Scholastic Press. Sarah Littman is the author of Confessions of a Closet Catholic, winner of the 2006 Sydney Taylor Award. In this, her latest novel, she takes us to Argentina to meet Dani Bensimon and her family. The Bensimons are troubled: by the loss of Dani’s aunt (her father’s sister) in the terrorist [...]

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