Thursday, July 14, 2022

Shabbat Sabotage

Berne, Emma Carlson. Shabbat Sabotage
April 26th 2022 by Yellow Jacket
Public Library Copy
Maya is very anxious about going to summer camp, especially since she had a scary experience with a swimming pool the previous summer. Her parents made a deal with her that she had to go, so that she didn't spend the entire summer holed up in her room reading classic literature like Lord of the Flies, so she finds herself on a bus to Camp Shalom rather against her will. She has a run in with a mouthy girl on the bus (the two crack heads when Maya tries to help her pick up a bobby pin), and of course that girl, Yael, ends up being in her cabin with counselor Tamar and bunkmates Dani and Gracie. There are the standard challenges of camp, like keeping the cabin clean, eating in the mess hall, showering communally (although there are curtains, at least!) and missing home, but a lot of fun as well. When Tamar informs the campers that they will be in charge of the Shabbot and shows them the camp's sentimental silver kiddush cup andcandlesticks, the girls have a variety of reactions to performing publically, but when the items go missing, they band together  not only to find the items but to uncover the mystery of who stole them. Maya also relies on her cabin mates to help her learn to swim so she can pass the test and go on an overnight trip that requires strong swimming skills, and her experience with falling short of an expected skill helps her to be sympathetic when the shabbat thief is discovered. 
Strengths: While the author clearly has a love for the camp experience, given all of the great details, Maya is not a fan. Being away from home, living out of a duffle, being in the woods; modern children seem to balk at the things that my generation found to be tremendously appealing. It makes sense that this is a Jewish camp; when I was sending my children to camp twenty years ago, there were few other choices but religious camps, even though I preferred the Camp Fire Girls camp I attended. Sadly, Camp Kiwatani is now a residential subdivision!
Weaknesses: Given the older titles that Maya was reading (Animal Farm, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and The Outsiders, and the lack of discussion about cell phones, I thought this might be set in the 1980s until I saw Maya also brought the book Wonder with her. Thought way too long about whether I liked authors to mention older books that I might then convince them to read, or newer books by contemporary authors. Not sure what I decided. 
What I really think: This is a quick, gentle mystery with tons of camp details and some good cultural connections to Jewish life. I would have adored this in fourth grade, and it's the perfect book to read while sitting on the front porch in the summer with a glass of lemonade. Of course, my students would be more inclined to pick it up if the mystery involved the camp director being murdered by being drowned in a vat of bug juice, but I have particularly blood thirsty readers!
 Ms. Yingling

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