Thursday, May 17, 2012
Book Review: Looking for Me, by Betsy Rosenthal
This novel in verse is a moving and sometimes humorous coming of age story that takes place over one year; it's based on the author's own mother's childhood growing up in a very large Jewish family in 1930's Baltimore.
Eleven-year old Edith is #4 of twelve kids in her family, and feels like one of those wooden nesting dolls she's seen at the store. No one takes much notice of her, as she helps with the younger kids, goes to school, and works at her family's diner. Times are tough, and her wishes are simple. For example, she'd love to have new back-to-school clothes "But in my family/we wear/hand-me-down/down/down/down/downs."
Although she complains she doesn't know who she is in her big family, over the course of the year, in which tragedy as well as joyous events occur, she's working on figuring out where she belongs. An author's note tells more about Edith, the "little mother" of the family who became the only girl in her family to go to college. Family photographs are also provided, so readers can see the "real Edith." A glossary provides explanations of unfamiliar words, particularly Jewish and Yiddish phrases that are sprinkled throughout the text.
This is a beautifully written novel in verse, in which Edith's voice comes through loud and clear; she might not know who she is, but the reader does, and cares about her deeply. This novel will appeal to those who enjoy a story about real people and their joys and tribulations--no angels, vampires, or werewolves in this one. This should definitely be on the Sydney Taylor Award consideration list; I would recommend it to anyone, but the story will especially resonate with Jewish readers as Jewish holidays and culture are integral to the story. This is author Betsy Rosenthal's first novel, and I look forward to reading more from her in the future.
Posted by Fourth Musketeer at 8:49 AM