Review: The Backyard Secrets of Danny Wexler

 The Backyard Secrets of Danny Wexler

by Karen Pokras

Kar-Ben Publishing (imprint of Lerner Publishing Group)

Category: Middle Grade
Reviewer: Stacy Mozer

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Growing up in a factory town in the 1970s, eleven year old Danny Wexler has always known he was the only Jewish kid in town, but it hasn't really affected him. That is, until his father gets a promotion and some of the other workers don't think he deserves it because he's Jewish. Fortunately, Danny's two good friends stand with him and support him and together they try to solve a mystery inspired by a movie about the Bermuda Triangle and a white van.

This book meets the Sydney Taylor criteria because it is appropriate for the intended grade level in style, vocabulary, format, and illustration, is solidly rooted in authentic and accurate detail through scholarship and research by the author, and it has positive and authentic Jewish religious or cultural content. I particularly liked how the author explored the idea of being open about being Jewish versus trying to fit in with the secular population. Danny's neighbor hid her Judaism for most of her life, took her husband's non-Jewish last name, and named her son the non-Jewish sounding name Anthony. As Danny explores his connection to Judaism, she realizes she should have been more open and helps to support him and his family.

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Reviewer Stacy Mozer a veteran elementary school teacher, currently teaching third grade. In addition to teaching, she is a middle grade author and a book blogger.