Ice Cream Town

  • Review
By – April 2, 2012
For young Sam­my Levin, leav­ing Poland for Amer­i­ca means gain­ing access to the fin­er things in life: stick ball, mati­nees, and a reg­u­lar sup­ply of ice cream. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, attain­ing his desired lifestyle dri­ves him to join a Jew­ish gang, with kids whose moral stan­dards con­tin­u­al­ly diverge from Sammy’s own. A prankster with a good heart, Sam­my now finds him­self expect­ed to skip ched­er and par­tic­i­pate in var­i­ous acts of thiev­ery. Con­flict between Sammy’s desire live up to his father’s moral and aca­d­e­m­ic expec­ta­tions and his need to belong fuel this sto­ry, and lead him to employ cre­ative solu­tions for his dilem­ma. This nov­el is based loose­ly on the life of the author’s father. Some of the col­or­ful descrip­tions — such as how to play stick ball — con­tain details that bring the time alive for read­ers. The ques­tion of how tra­di­tion­al Sammy’s Judaism will remain in his new coun­try is inte­grat­ed with verac­i­ty into the more uni­ver­sal moral issue of steal­ing, which lay­ers the nov­el with the mul­ti­plic­i­ty and com­plex­i­ty of chal­lenges new­com­ers have faced. Themes of the New York immi­grant sto­ry, such as Ellis Island inspec­tions, gar­ment worker’s sweat­shops, prej­u­dice, or tough street life are not new to the genre, but told with a live­ly flair. Expe­ri­enced read­ers of the Syd­ney Tay­lor books will get a grit­ti­er and more real­is­tic side of immi­grant life from child’s point of view. For grades 4 – 6.
Natasha Berg­son-Michel­son MLIS, is the librar­i­an at the Hirschberg Fam­i­ly Childdren’s Library at Penin­su­la Tem­ple Sholom in Burlingame, CA. Pre­vi­ous­ly, she was librar­i­an for Niehaus Ryan­Wong, Inc. and the McKEn­na Group, both in Sil­i­con Val­ley. She also writes for the online tuto­r­i­al Googleguide​.com.

Discussion Questions