Review: Monster Bar Mitzvah

Monster Bar Mitzvah

by Josh Anderson, illustrated by Dustin Evans

Apples & Honey Press (imprint of Behrman House), 2022

Category: Middle Grade
Reviewer: Stacy Nockowitz

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Josh Anderson’s slim graphic novel, Monster Bar Mitzvah, presents the story of Eli, one of those kids who can’t seems to get out of his own way. It’s summertime, and Eli is feeling lonely and bored because his older brother Adam is so busy preparing for his bar mitzvah. Every time one of his parents gives Eli a task to help around the house, he gets distracted and messes things up, whether it’s putting together a table, sorting response cards, or simply getting a bag of flour down from a high shelf. Feeling sorry for himself, Eli retreats to his room where he meets one of his stuffed animals come-to-life, a friendly monster named Brisket. Brisket is out to prove to Eli that his summer can still be fun. The story is light on explanations– readers never find out how Brisket becomes animate or why Eli is the only person who can see and communicate with the little monster. But the message of the book, that kids can accomplish a lot if they have the right attitude and believe in themselves, comes through in a low-stakes, good-natured way. The art is brightly colored and lively, with a cartoonish look that 7- to10-year-olds will enjoy.

This book’s title is a bit misleading as Monster Bar Mitzvah isn’t actually about the bar mitzvah boy or the event. Instead, the book uses the impending bar mitzvah as the background for Eli’s antics and what he learns about himself as the summer progresses. It’s a sweet, gentle story set at a busy time in the life of a Jewish family. It would be a welcome addition to any library looking for more graphic novels to hold young readers’ interest. 

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Reviewer Stacy Nockowitz is a middle school librarian and former language arts teacher with 30+ years of experience in middle grade education. She holds Master's Degrees from Columbia University and Kent State University, and is an MFA candidate in Writing for Children and Young Adults at Vermont College of Fine Arts. Her debut middle grade novel, The Prince of Steel Pier, was published on September 1, 2022, from Kar-Ben Books. The Prince of Steel Pier is a PJ Our Way choice book for October 2022. Stacy lives in Columbus, Ohio, with her husband, Richie, and their perfect cat, Queen Esther. Find her on Twitter @snockowitz or visit