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Review: Who Was Levi Strauss?

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Who Was Levi Strauss? by Ellen Labrecque Penguin Workshop (imprint of Penguin Random House) Category: Middle Grade Reviewer: Stacy Nockowitz Buy at Bookshop.org Ellen Labrecque’s Who Was Levi Strauss? is a new title in the extensive WHO HQ series. The book is a cradle-to-grave biography of 19th century immigrant entrepreneur Loeb Strauss, who would later change his name to Levi Strauss and build the blue jeans empire that still dominates the fashion industry today. Labrecque’s book follows the formula of the series, laying out Strauss’s humble beginnings in Bavaria as the youngest child of door-to-door sewing supply salesman Hirsch Strauss and his second wife, Rebecca. A few years after two of the Strauss brothers immigrate to America and open a successful sewing supply store in New York City, Loeb, along with his mother and other siblings, follows. Labrecque does not shy away from explaining the Strauss family’s reason for wanting to leave Bavaria. Life for Jews in the German state a

Review: Some Other Now

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Some Other Now by Sarah Everett Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers Category: Young Adult Reviewer: Cheryl Fox Strausberg Buy at Bookshop.org Jessi Rumfield has never felt at home in her own family. Her mother has debilitating depression and her father spends most of his time tending to her and largely ignoring Jessi. It’s no wonder that when Rowan Cohen - Jessi’s best friend - pseudo-adopts her into his family, she feels closer to Rowan’s mother Mel and her two boys, instead of her own parents. After admitting her long-standing crush on Rowan’s older brother Luke, and having that crush reciprocated, Luke and Jessi start a whirlwind romance, no easy feat for a high school senior and a college freshman. However, her happiness is short-lived; On one fateful night, everything goes spectacularly wrong and results in fatal consequences. A year later, Jessi is trying to fill her time to avoid dealing with her problems but it only gets worse when Luke returns home from college a

Review: Rebel Daughter

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 Rebel Daughter by Lori Banov Kaufmann #ownvoices Delacorte Press (imprint of Penguin Random House) Category: Young Adult Reviewer: A.R. Vishny Buy at Bookshop.org Rebel Daughter follows Esther, the daughter of a priest in the Second Temple, during the Siege of Jerusalem in 70 CE. The novel imagines the life of the young woman memorialized in real life by a two-thousand-year-old tombstone found in Southern Italy, described in the Author’s Note. Esther’s comfortable life in Jerusalem is gradually upended, as factions in the city decide to rebel against Roman authority and those that stand in their way. The fighting culminates with the siege and the destruction of the Temple. Esther is caught up in the conflict, and must survive being sold into slavery in Rome. There are few examples of Jewish historical fiction in YA that are set outside the 20th century, so the setting in itself was refreshing to see. This book follows in the tradition of The Dovekeepers and The Red Tent in renderin

Review: Rescue

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 Rescue by Jennifer A. Nielsen Scholastic  Category: Middle Grade Reviewer: Stacy Nockowitz Buy at Bookshop.org Jennifer Nielsen’s newest middle grade historical fiction, Rescue , returns to the World War II time period of her Sydney Taylor Notable Book, Resistance , but with France as its setting. In Rescue , as in her other books of historical fiction, Nielsen gives us a courageous and resourceful heroine, Meg Kenyon, who lives in a rural area of Occupied France with her mother and grandmother. Meg’s father has gone to fight/spy against the Nazis, and the family has not heard from him in the two years that he has been away. When Meg finds an injured British captain in the barn behind her grandmother’s house, he offers her a way to bring her father home: If Meg leads a family of three out of France and into Spain, they’ve promised that her father will go free. All Meg has to help her on the hazardous journey is an encoded note from her father and a backpack of supplies from the captai

Review: Hold On to Your Music

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Hold On to Your Music: The Inspiring True Story of the Children of Willesden Lane by Mona Golabek #ownvoices and Lee Cohen #ownvoices, adapted by Emil Sher #ownvoices, illustrated by Sonia Possentini Little Brown & Company Category: Picture Books Reviewer: Beth Gallego Buy at Bookshop.org On a cold winter day in Vienna, Lisa takes the trolley to her piano lesson, daydreaming about performing Mozart and Beethoven at the symphony hall. When she arrives, her teacher meets her at the door and tells her that the laws have changed, and he can no longer teach Jewish children. At home, Lisa’s parents comfort her, and her mother tells her to “hold on to your music. It will be your best friend.” She repeats this advice one last time as Lisa boards a train with many other children leaving for Great Britain, where their parents hope they will be safe. After arriving in London, Lisa is placed at a group foster home in Willesden Lane. She makes friends with the other children, and is pleased to

Review: Lisa of Willesden Lane

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Lisa of Willesden Lane (Young Readers Edition)  by Mona Golabek & Lee Cohen #ownvoices Little Brown Books for Young Readers Category: Middle Grade Reviewer: Leah Cypress Buy at Bookshop.org Lisa of Willesden Lane , by Mona Golabek and Lee Cohen, tells a fictionalized account of a young Jewish girl's experiences in World War II England. The main character, Lisa, was one of the children of the Kindertransport. Lisa was also an unusually talented pianist, and the stories of her persistence and triumph with her music form a harmonious counterpoint to the historical background of the story. Like most Holocaust narratives that can be adapted for children, Lisa's story involved a lot of happiness and triumph. She was able to get her younger sister onto a Kindertransport, and spent the war mostly surrounded by friends who helped her succeed. Hers is the story of a girl who lived in a terrible time, and suffered some devastating losses, but for whom hope and happiness won out in th

Review: Jacob and the Mandolin Adventure

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 Jacob and the Mandolin Adventure by Anne Dublin #ownvoices Second Story Press Category: Middle Grade Reviewer: Kathy Bloomfield Buy at Bookshop.org Friendship, mandolins, and adventure are at the heart of this novel based on a true story. Jacob endures many hardships as an orphan in Mezritsh, Poland, but finds solace in participating in the orphanage’s mandolin orchestra. When given the opportunity to leave Poland to be educated at a Canadian Jewish Farm School outside of Toronto, he jumps at the chance. The children and their chaperones travel hours by train and weeks by ship, to arrive at their destination. While the journey is exciting, and not without its perils, they arrive in Canada and adapt to life at the Farm School. The story culminates in a promised trip to play mandolin at Carnegie Hall in New York. This is a well-written, well-researched historical novel about a unique event in Jewish history, and while not a Holocaust story, per se, those dark times will shadow the reade