Review: Journey on the C&O Canal

 Journey on the C&O Canal

by Tovah S. Yavin


Category: Middle Grade
Reviewer: Judith S. Greenblatt

Journey on the C & O Canal is a warm and loving story. In 1909, twelve year old Orthodox Gabe is preparing for his Bar Mitzvah and eager for adventure. Two weeks on the C & O canal, helping Mr. Brent with his boat and mules, especially lame mule Rosy, sounds like a perfect escape from the drudgery of school, homework, working in the Mr. Lichtenstein’s pharmacy and chores.  Once on the canal, Gabe has his moments of boredom plodding alongside the mules, but he also learns how to speak mule, how to rescue a doll, and how to help a 7 year old learn to read.  Most importantly, he learns a lot about himself. 


The essence of the story is its positive and authentic Jewish content. Before Gabe's adventure is allowed to start, several questions must be answered. To honor Gabe's parents, must their permission first be secured? Will Gabe have access to kosher food and be able to observe Shabbat appropriately? The answers satisfy the Rabbi, who himself comes up with the solution to the most difficult problems.


The book is not concerned solely with Halachah, although the basics of kashrut and Shabbat observance are discussed. Throughout the book, kindness (to humans and to animals), consideration for others, willingness to go beyond the bounds of duty to be helpful, are all shown to be important.


The villain in this story is the driver who mistreats Rosy. Other mistakes are made out of ignorance, grief, or youthful misjudgment, not with evil intent. Tovah S. Yavin tells us the story with gentle humor, appealing characters, and language appropriate to the age level, straightforward and unambiguous.


A selected bibliography is included, including a cookbook, towpath guides, songbooks, and the history of the American veterinary profession. A map of the C & O canal route locates the story in space, helping to anchor the story to the facts. A recipe for Kosher Boatman's Bean Soup is also included. Journey on the C &O is a gentle, fun, and informative read.


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Reviewer Judith S. Greenblatt says: I hold a Master of Library Service from Rutgers-The State University. My first Judaic Librarian job was as Judaic Librarian as Librarian RI. I joined AJL in 1977, chaired Weine Cataloging Revision Committee, and served as Vice President and President of the School, Synagogue and Center Division of AJL. Publications include: 1985-86 Book lists; for young children, for 3rd to 6th graders, for young adults. Annotated. Women's League for Conservative Judaism, 1986. 100 Plus Books For The Children's Library: A Basic Collection. Revised in cooperation with the Publications Committee of the AJL, AJL, 1989. Weine Classification Scheme for Judaica Libraries. Revised by Judith S. Greenblatt, Chairman. 8th edition. AJL Synagogue, School and Center Division, 1994.