Review: Too Far From Home

...Too Far From Home by Naomi Shmuel, illustrated by Avi Katz

Category: Middle Grade
Reviewer: Stacy Mozer

Too Far From Home is about a Jewish girl named Meskerem who lives in the Golan Heights. Meskerem's mother is an Ethiopian Jew who has just gotten an important job helping the country transition when Operation Solomon brings a large number of Ethiopian Jews to Israel. When the family moves to be closer to the center of Israel for her mother's job, Meskerem is surprised by the racist comments of her new classmates and finds herself telling everyone she's an American, like her father, instead of admitting her real background. With help from her grandmother, Meskerem has to find a way to appreciate and love her heritage before she can help people at her new school get to know the real her.

Meskerem's story is relatable to anyone who has experienced any kind of bullying. As an American Jew who only knows a small amount about what happened in Israel with Operation Solomon, I would have liked to have a little more background and history included in this story, or in the back matter.

This book "is appropriate for the intended grade level in style, vocabulary, format, and illustration," and the book does, "demonstrate the broad diversity of the Jewish experience, including diversity of time period and country of origin." For those reasons, it would meet the Sydney Taylor Book Award criteria and should be considered.

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Reviewer Stacy Mozer a veteran elementary school teacher, currently teaching advanced language arts to second - fifth graders. In addition to teaching, she is a middle grade author, a book blogger, a frequent Cybils Award committee member, and serves as Co-Regional Advisor for the New England Region of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators.