Review: Eddie Whatever
by Lois Ruby
Carolrhoda Books (imprint of Lerner Publishing Group)
Category: Middle Grade
Reviewer: Shirley Reva Vernick
For his bar mitzvah project, 13-year-old Eddie Lewin volunteers at the Silver Brook retirement home, where the residents call him “Eddie Whatever” rather than bothering to remember his last name. Eddie expects his “sentence” to be a bore, but at least his friend/crush Tessa is volunteering there too. Soon, the resident seniors topple Eddie’s assumptions about the dullness of elderly people. Their lives are filled with secrets, courtships, the rumor of a vengeful ghost, and drama over repeated robberies. When Eddie gets blamed for the thefts, he and Tessa work together to solve the riddles at Silver Brook.
Filled with humor, poignancy and mystery, Eddie Whatever explores the realities of aging in a fast-paced story that will draw in middle-grade readers. And there’s more. When Eddie learns that one of the residents is a Holocaust survivor, he realizes that he’s deeply connected to the elderly through a long trail of shared history. He grasps the importance of looking beyond oldsters’ surface faults to the trauma that may lie underneath. How does one look deeper? By listening to their stories.
This well-crafted novel is a strong contender for the Sydney Taylor Book Award. The framework of the bar mitzvah project creates a seamless space to feature Eddie’s wise rabbi, his b’nai mitzvah class, and his actual bar mitzvah. Silver Brook is home not only to a Holocaust survivor, but to two former Jewish gangsters too. Jewish themes include respecting elders, loving kindness, friendship, and learning from everyone.
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