Review: Yitzy Aims High

Yitzy Aims High by Ann D. Koffsky, illustrated by Margeaux Lucas

Category: Early Chapter Book
Reviewer: Chava Pinchuck

Yitzy is waiting in the lobby of the synagogue while his father prays in the sanctuary. But it is taking a very long time. Yitzy has been entertaining himself by playing with his toy dragon and barrel of monkeys, but is bored and decides to kiss the mezuzah on the doorpost of the shul. It is up pretty high, and his attempts at jumping to reach it are not working. His toys start talking to him, with the monkeys forming a chain to help him, and the dragon trying to fly Yitzy to the mezuzah, but still, no success. Then Mr. Gertz arrives in a wheelchair and asks Yitzy to hold the door open so he can go in. To return the favor, Mr. Gertz tells Yitzy to climb onto his lap. Yitzy puts his feet on the arms of the wheelchair, and he can reach the mezuzah and kiss it. Yitzy realizes Mr. Gertz can't reach the mezuzah, so he gets him a siddur to tap it. Yitzy's father comes out of the shul, and they head home, where Yitzy tries to reach the cookie jar.

This early reader chapter book has authentic Jewish content. The book is appropriate for the intended grade level in style and illustration. The text is pretty dense on the page for the intended grade level, and some of the words are a little advanced. The man in the wheelchair adds diversity. The book is targeted to Orthodox readers: words like mezuzah and davening are used with no translation. If one doesn't read too far into it (talking toys, no one else in the synagogue lobby, a man showing up for synagogue very late), it's a cute story that includes a mitzvah.

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Chava (Kathe) Pinchuck worked in private and public libraries in New Jersey before making aliyah in 2012. In Israel she has worked as a cataloger of legal documents and a cybrarian for a distance learning institution. She is a past chair of the Sydney Taylor Book Award Committee, past co-editor of the Children's and YA Book Reviews for AJL News and Reviews, and the current editor of the Jewish Values Finder, a database of Jewish children's books.