Review: Shabbat Sabotage

Shabbat Sabotage

by Emma Carlson Berne

Yellow Jacket (imprint of Little Bee  Books), 2022

Category: Middle Grade
Reviewer: Sandy Wasserman

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This is one of the most uplifting Jewish camp books I've ever read! Camp Shalom, where it takes place, is a girls' camp but the object lessons in the plot are universal. The 11 year olds arriving on Day One do not know each other, some do not want to be there, and there's a bit of edgy unfriendliness as they size each other up upon arrival at their cabin. But what they don't know is that some of the girls have secrets, and so a mystery develops. Someone can't swim, and someone steals a kiddush cup and candlesticks for a very unusual reason, and someone is way more homesick than anyone else. There is just enough of a hint along the way to surmise the identity of the thief, but the story keeps the reader guessing. In the end, the girls solve the mystery and help each other overcome their personal problems and fears, and that is what friendship is all about -- lifting each other up, and being brave enough to admit one's fears, to then trust in the group's support. This book is for any children who are a bit shy about leaving the nest for sleep away camp and just for all kids who love reading about the summer sleep away camp experience. Camp Shalom is where I'd want to go if I could turn back the clock!

Shabbat Sabotage has so very many Jewish references. The campers are put into groups named for various cities in Israel, and there's even a counselor from Israel. We feel the spirit, the 'ruach' of the camp, as the girls swim and enjoy camp activities. Protagonist Maya's cabin has been selected to lead the entire camp for Shabbat services, but first they must solve the mystery of the missing kiddush cup and candlesticks.   How that mystery is solved by the campers themselves and how they all help each other and support each others' personal issues reminds the reader how community-oriented Judaism is, and how as Jews, even at a young age, we can learn to support each other.

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Reviewer Sandy Wasserman is a retired teacher who taught for 35 years, for the most part with Gifted children. Currently her grandchildren inspire many of her stories. She loves to swim, read, travel, and explore. Sandy is a member of SCBWI, LICWI and the LI Association of Jewish Librarians. Her published book, The Sun's Special Blessing [Pitspopany] enjoyed its special year in 2009 in the US and Israel.