Saturday, June 25, 2011

Jewish Grandfathers

I love theme reading, and it's even better when I pick things up randomly that have a theme!

Dominy, Amy Fellner. OyMG.
Ellie hopes to make a name for herself by using her argumentative skills in some arena of public speaking, so she is thrilled when she gets to go to a speech summer camp, even if it's a Christian program at and she's Jewish. Well, half Jewish. And if Mrs. Yeats, who is in charge of awarding a scholarship to attend the school full time at Benedict High doesn't like Jews, well, Ellie is also half Lutheran. Complicating things is the fact that Ellie has a huge crush on the benefactor's grandson, Devon, who is also in the speech program and a fierce competitor. Ellie isn't quite sure who she wants to be, but knows that she can't disappoint her fiercely loving and proudly Jewish grandfather.

Strengths: Strong, supportive family, nice romantic interest, information about speech and debate. When I was in middle school, I loved reading books about Jewish families, since there were very few in my community.
Weaknesses: Mrs. Yates was really particularly evil, and never really learns any lessons. I'm bothered by this, more on the level of thinking that there are real people like this in the world than on any fictional level. Ellie ends up triumphing despite her, but she was appallingly evil in the way that only someone with a facade of being nice can be.

Perl, Erica S. When Life Gives You OJ.
After her family moves from Brooklyn to Vermont, Zelly really wants to get a dog. Her grandfather, Yiddish spouting former judge Ace Diamond, instructs her to create a "dog" out of an orange juice jug and "take care of it" for the summer so that she can prove to her parents that she is responsible enough to take care of a real dog. It's annoying, to have to drag the jug out on walks, "feed" it water and dog food, and clean up it's messes, especially when her friends find out what she is doing. She has an ally in Jeremy, but is annoyed at her friends for thinking she and Jeremy should be romantically connected just because they are both Jewish. After a while, Zelly becomes irritated with her grandfather, too. Will the plan to get a dog really work?

Strengths: I had a lot of 6th graders who wanted books about dogs last year, so even though Zelly is ten, I may have to buy this one. It is innovative in its approach to a child wanting a dog, and has good characters and a humorous tone.
Weaknesses: For some weird reason, I could buy everything about the "dog" except for filling it with dog food and water and then dumping that out to clean up as a "mess". Other than that, it was fine!

Moral of both stories: If you fight with your elderly, Jewish grandfather, chances are good that he will have an attack of some sort, end up in the hospital; you'll be besieged by guilt, even though it's not your fault.

1. 11 miles 2. 12 books 3. 9 quilt tops

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