By – January 18, 2018

Noah is a typ­i­cal kid try­ing to get through the sev­enth grade and his bar mitz­vah year. With his best friend, Dash, at his side, and Noah’s crazy sense of humor, things are as good as they can be. The only thorn in his life is his neme­sis, Noa, a class­mate who shares his name and has been in every class with him since kinder­garten. When she winds up with the same date for her bat mitz­vah as his, it’s almost too much to bear. Then the unthink­able hap­pens: Dash’s dad, Gil, dies. Gil, the fun­ny dad, the one who watch­es all the great com­e­dy movies with them, who loves Dr. Pep­per and pop­corn. In the blink of an eye, he’s gone.

As Noah attempts to con­nect with and con­sole Dash, he falls back on the one thing that has always worked in the past: humor. When Dash pulls fur­ther away, Noah is at a loss. Every­thing he does, every joke he tells, widens the gap between them.

Author Eri­ca Perl takes us along with Noah on his painful jour­ney from self-absorbed kid to self­less friend in this emo­tion-packed nov­el. She tack­les sen­si­tive issues sur­round­ing the loss of a loved one — both from the per­spec­tive of some­one cop­ing with loss, and as a friend to some­one suf­fer­ing a loss. This is a grip­ping book from start to fin­ish and an excel­lent read for ages 10 to 14.

Mar­cia Ber­neger is a retired teacher who lives with her hus­band and three crazy dogs. She taught both first and sec­ond grade, as well as spe­cial edu­ca­tion. She cur­rent­ly teach­es Torah school, in addi­tion to her vol­un­teer work in class­rooms, libraries, and with var­i­ous fundrais­ers. She lives in San Diego.

Discussion Questions

Com­e­dy is king. This much is obvi­ous to the pro­tag­o­nists of Eric S. Perl’s All Three Stooges. Quick­ly, anoth­er real­i­ty becomes obvi­ous, too: Judaism, its cen­tral place in one’s life, even if one is in mid­dle school. The action takes place in an unusu­al set­ting: week­ly, sup­ple­men­tal reli­gious school where Jew­ish young­sters deal nat­u­ral­ly with rab­bis, Jew­ish edu­ca­tion, and religion’s role in prob­lem-solv­ing. The sad theme of this warm nov­el is parental sui­cide and the impact of such enor­mous loss on the son and his best friend. The weight of the tragedy moves beyond the imme­di­ate fam­i­ly to the friend, whose attempts at con­do­lences are age-appro­pri­ate, clum­sy fail­ures that lead him to ever more inap­pro­pri­ate actions. Funer­al, shi­va, and fall­out, mix with the class bar mitz­vah projects con­cern­ing Jew­ish come­di­ans, insti­gat­ing a who’s in, who’s out” group dynam­ic, which exac­er­bates the ten­sion between the boys, both strug­gling to han­dle the sud­den tragedy in their lives and their rela­tion­ship. The fam­i­lies are mod­ern and var­ied: divorced/​single par­ent, same-sex par­ents and step-par­ent, with the tweens bring­ing their per­son­al take on death and loss to the issues. Believ­able, empa­thet­ic char­ac­ters deliv­er grief, humor, and friend­ship in a mov­ing plot immersed in pos­i­tive Judaism.