Grandpa’s Moun­tain: Let­ters from a Bor­der Kib­butz in Israel

Arieh Larkey
  • Review
By – December 16, 2011

Grandpa’s Moun­tain is an inter­gen­er­a­tional sto­ry about the lov­ing rela­tion­ship between a boy and a grand­fa­ther he knows only through let­ters. Steven finds his grandfather’s address in some old let­ters of his par­ents and seeks his grandfather’s help in con­vinc­ing his par­ents to let him go on a Boy Scout out­ing. Although the grand­fa­ther has been estranged from the fam­i­ly and lives far away in Israel, Steven and his grand­fa­ther devel­op a very strong bond through their cor­re­spon­dence and their mutu­al love of scout­ing. The sto­ry is told through the let­ters, and lat­er phone calls, of Steven and his grand­fa­ther with occa­sion­al nar­ra­tive interludes. 

Even though this nov­el is a touch­ing por­trait of a boy’s lov­ing rela­tion­ship with his grand­fa­ther as he comes of age, very lit­tle of the sto­ry is about Israel. The grand­fa­ther describes where he lives and his love for Israel, but there is no real sense of place. The sto­ry might have been bet­ter if Steven lived in Israel and wrote to his grand­fa­ther in Amer­i­ca. The read­ers would then have had more of a feel­ing for life in a bor­der kib­butz. As the sto­ry stands, the read­er learns a great deal about scout­ing and camp­ing in Amer­i­ca, but does not learn about Israel. 

The end­ing of the sto­ry seemed too pre­dictable, with Steven’s grand­fa­ther dying just as Steven was sup­posed to be meet­ing him. It seemed unnec­es­sar­i­ly maudlin and may put off some chil­dren who would oth­er­wise be drawn to the book because of Steven’s camp­ing adven­tures. Grades 5 – 8; Ages 10 – 14.

Susan Dubin was the first librar­i­an hon­ored with a Milken Fam­i­ly Foun­da­tion Jew­ish Edu­ca­tor Award. She is the owner/​director of Off-the-Shelf Library Ser­vices and library instruc­tion­al con­sul­tant at Val­ley Beth Shalom Day School in Enci­no, CA.

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