Book Review | Stealing Home.
by Ellen Schwartz

Score: 3.5

© 2006, Tundra Books.

It is 1947, Joey Sexton’s white, Jewish mother has died and he finds out that his black father is also dead. The only family that will take him are his maternal grandfather and aunt who live together in Brooklyn.

As Joey struggles to make friends with the other children in the neighborhood, his cousin Roberta (known as Bobbie) befriends him and takes his side as often as she can. Joey’s Zayde (grandfather) is angry that Joey’s mother ran away from home and married someone who was not white and not Jewish. His grandfather is determined to bring Joey into line so as not to lose him as he lost Joey’s mother.  The struggle between Joey and his grandfather is compelling and makes for a fine and intense read.

While Jackie Robinson, a Brooklyn Dodger rookie, is trying to break sport’s color-barrier, Joey, a half-white half-black child, also struggles to find his place in the world.  He roots for the Yankees, defends his mother when neighborhood women talk about her badly and argues with his grandfather at every opportunity.  At times, it feels he will never succeed in staying with this warm, loving family. However, through all the arguing, he and his grandfather find a way to make peace with each other.

The Jewish content of this book is excellent, from Shabbos dinner to saying kaddish, many Jewish traditions are described and we read about their celebration. The feelings and discussions that are in the story are written in a way to make the reader empathize with every character, whether it be Joey hearing bad things about his mom or his grandfather wondering how to raise him properly. Boys will love this book as it portrays baseball as America’s favorite past time and the play-by-play allows one to picture the games as they are played. Bobbie, a tomboy, is thoroughly accepted by her family and as a result thoroughly accepts Joey.   Joey’s aunt loves Joey and does everything she can to make him feel welcome. What she cannot do is override her father. She believes it is up to Joey and his Zayde to work their issues out with one another.

Grade Level: 4th – 9th

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