Yiddish terms thoroughlyembedded in English lose their genesis, their Jewish identity and, thus, ourcredit for adding to colorful speech. Not so in this fun picture bookabout a little girl who does not like people and actually prefers to be an animal herself. Through a charming, empathetic plot, the author brings thedefinition and connotations of the word “mensch” into sharpfocus. Estie does not want to be a person (definition) much less awell-behaved, well-mannered or good person (connotation). She is alwaysplayacting as one kind of animal or another to the escalating frustrations ofher parents and grandmother. On a trip to the zoo with her grandmother’sfriend and her grandchild, Petie, Estie discovers that her sillyimitating of many animals reaches the perfect audience. Petielaughs and laughs. He gets so excited he drops the ice cream out of hiscone. He cries. The grandmothers comfort in vain. Estie tothe rescue: she puts one of her scoops into his empty cone. A perfectmensch! Estie receives such great feedback she decides it is not so badto be a mensch as long as you can also be an animal. The stylizedwatercolor art reflects the emotions and actions in a mobile, appealingfashion. The text and characters are perfect for the targeted agegroup. The picture book delivers lessons of language and ethics in awarm, non-didactic way. Highly recommended for readers ages 5 – 7.
Ellen G. Cole, the librarian of the Levine Library of Temple Isaiah in Los Angeles, is a past judge of the Sydney Taylor Book Awards and a past chairperson of that committee. She is a co-author of the AJL guide, Excellence in Jewish Children’s Literature. Ellen is the recipient of two major awards for contribution to Judaic Librarianship, the Fanny Goldstein Merit Award from the Association of Jewish Libraries and the Dorothy Schroeder Award from the Association of Jewish Libraries of Southern California. She is on the board of AJLSC.