Estie the Mensch

Random House  2011

Yiddish terms thoroughly embedded in English lose their genesis, their Jewish identity and, thus, our credit for adding to colorful speech.  Not so in this fun picture book about a little girl who does not like people and actually prefers to be an animal herself.  Through a charming, empathetic plot, the author brings the definition and connotations of the word "mensch" into sharp focus.  Estie does not want to be a person (definition) much less a well-behaved, well-mannered or good person (connotation).  She is always playacting as one kind of animal or another to the escalating frustrations of her parents and grandmother.  On a trip to the zoo with her grandmother's friend and her grandchild, Petie, Estie discovers that her silly imitating of many animals reaches the perfect audience.  Petie laughs and laughs.  He gets so excited he drops the ice cream out of his cone.  He cries.  The grandmothers comfort in vain.  Estie to the rescue: she puts one of her scoops into his empty cone.  A perfect mensch!  Estie receives such great feedback she decides it is not so bad to be a mensch as long as you can also be an animal.  The stylized watercolor art reflects the emotions and actions in a mobile, appealing fashion.  The text and characters are perfect for the targeted age group.  The picture book delivers lessons of language and ethics in a warm, non-didactic way.  Highly recommended for readers ages 5-7. 

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