Estie the Mensch

Jane Kohuth; Roseanne Litzinger, illus.
  • Review
By – January 10, 2012
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.

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