Tuesday, December 22, 2020

The Trouble with Good Ideas

Panitch, Amanda. The Trouble with Good Ideas
January 5th 2021 by Roaring Brook Press
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Leah Nevins and her family have just moved from their home back to live near her great-grandfather, Zaide, who is 93 years old. She had to leave her Jewish school and feels awkward and unable to make friends in her new school. The one thing she does love is getting together with her extended family on Saturday afternoons at Zaide's quirky home, which is an old telephone office. She plays chess with her great-grandfather and hangs out with her cousins. When her grandfather starts to have memory issues, she overhears her parents discussing sending him to a nursing home. Leah is not about to support that idea, so casts her net wide to find a solution. She latches onto a story that Zaide told her about making a golem back home in Poland, and when she comes across a bag of dirt with a piece of paper with a word written on it, she takes the ingredients, follows the instructions, and creates a golem of her own. It's name is Elsa, and it looks like a regular girl Leah's age. Leah is relieved that she can leave Elsa with her grandfather to make sure that he doesn't get into trouble. She is given pause when Leah shows up at her school during lunch and claims it is boring when Zaide is napping. Elsa seems to have more success making friends than Leah does. When Elsa becomes more and more unreliable, Leah learns a bit more about golems from Zaide and has to come to terms with the reality of his condition. 
Strengths: I liked the close family connections, the religious practices, and was amazed at the fact that Zaide was still around; when my daughters were Leah's age, my grandmother would have been about 110! Hanging out with cousins, exploring the generations of things in Zaide's house, and dealing with friend drama at school all blend well together in this fast-paced, nicely plotted novel. Elsa is appropriately conniving and understatedly evil, and the twist at the end (which wouldn't be a twist if I were up on my golem lore!) was great. Even though a golem was involved, the rest of the details were very realistic. I enjoyed this one. 
Weaknesses: With one exception: Leah was rather bratty. Yes, it's great that she loves her great-grandfather, but her parents are right-- it's adult business, and it doesn't help to have her stamping her feet and slamming doors. Sometimes the elderly need to be in safer environments, and Zaide could have bene moved BEFORE he broke his hip. In real life, this would most likely lead to his hastened death. Remember, my mother died of Parkinson's dementia in an assisted living facility five months ago, so I might be overly sensitive. 
What I really think: The cover is great, it's a fast-paced book, and I don't have that many books where Jewish culture and religion is worked into a story that's about something else. This is similar to Respicio's Any Day With You. Still amazed by having GREAT grandparents around, though!
Ms. Yingling

No comments:

Post a Comment