Nicole Rubel, a twin and author of Twice as Nice, an informational book about twins, here fictionalizes the downside of being a identical twin and ups the ante by placing the girls into an unsupportive Jewish family environment. Though the author has provided distinctively quirky illustrations and numerous funny, though stereo-typic, eccentricities of Rachel’s extended family, we experience through Rachel’s eyes one vignette after another in which adults feed her feelings of inadequacy and failure. No wonder she suspects her academically gifted twin Rebecca of prenatally stealing more than her share of brain. Of course, it doesn’t help to have a gorgeous, recurrently rude and depressive mother who’s obsessed with Rachel’s weight; grandparents who relate to her chiefly through food; a traveling salesman father who’s mostly away; an abusively critical fifth grade teacher; and anti-Semitic neighbors. When Rachel’s own unique artistic talents are recognized, first by a perceptive teacher in her Hebrew School, and then by a supportive substitute teacher who replaces ancient Miss Bunker, she finally begins to overcome her feelings of defeat and resolve her relationships within the family. This Floridian version of American- Jewish environment and the wryly humorous angst of Rachel’s self-criticism may be entertaining and familiar to some young readers, although those looking for books with more traditional Jewish values should look elsewhere. For ages 9 – 11.
Rita Berman Frischer was director of Sinai Temple Blumenthal Library for twenty years. She has served as a judge for children’s books awards, written chapters on children’s book for various bibliographic works and is a frequent reviewer for Jewish periodicals and newspapers.