Review: A Sky Full of Song

A Sky Full of Song

by Susan Lynn Meyer

Union Square Kids, 2023

Category: Middle Grade
Reviewer: Stacy Nockowitz

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The pitch for Susan Lynn Meyer’s A Sky Full of Song writes itself: Little House on the Prairie, but Jewish! This exceptional book gives readers the story of a family of Russian immigrants settling in North Dakota at the beginning of the 20th century. It’s 1905, and eleven-year-old Shoshana, along with and her mother and sisters, joins her father and older brother who have already started a new life on the vast American Plains. Meyer fills Shoshana’s story with powerful descriptions of the lush landscape and the harsh, day-to-day life on the prairie. Shoshana finds the land beautiful and exciting, if a bit mysterious, while her dear older sister Libke has difficulty adjusting. Their American classmates at their one-room schoolhouse express ignorant ideas about Jews, and the girls face physical danger at the hands of the school bullies. Should they turn away from their heritage to fit in? The tense climax will leave readers wondering if they could survive under the brutal conditions of a North Dakota winter at the turn-of-the-century, and if they could hold onto their language and their traditions when faced with such blind insensitivity from others.

The dilemmas of assimilation are at the forefront of A Sky Full of Song. Should Shoshana hide her Jewish identity from her new friends? But Meyer’s message comes through loud and clear: stay true to who you are and overcome ignorance with education. Shoshana cannot fight the bullies with her fists, but she can share her traditions to show her new classmates what it really means to be Jewish. The book also touches on another Jewish principle: the proper treatment of animals. The various animals in Shoshana’s life in North Dakota, from her family’s horses to the cat she saves from the streets, are integral to the story, and the animals’ needs are often the focus of Shoshana’s thoughts. Her family risks a great deal to save a horse’s life near the end of the book. This gesture shows how the family enacts tikkun olam even in the face of antisemitism. A Sky Full of Song should be a strong contender for a Sydney Taylor Honor or Award.

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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. Her debut middle grade novel, The Prince of Steel Pier (Kar-Ben), won a 2022 National Jewish Book Award and was named a Sydney Taylor Book Award Notable Book for 2023. The Prince of Steel Pier was a PJ Our Way selection for October 2022. Find her on Twitter @snockowitz or visit