Jacob and the Man­dolin Adventure

  • Review
By – September 13, 2021

Based on a true sto­ry set in 1927 in Poland, this unusu­al adven­ture tale is filled with action and sus­pense. Jew­ish chil­dren in the orphan­age in Mezritsh wish to escape pover­ty and hard­ship by emi­grat­ing to the Unit­ed States, but quo­tas are in effect and the bor­ders are effec­tive­ly closed. Then a unique oppor­tu­ni­ty aris­es; a bene­fac­tor pro­pos­es that the orphans be brought to the Cana­di­an Jew­ish Farm School near Toron­to, where they will not only be safe and well-fed but they can learn impor­tant skills and, per­haps even­tu­al­ly, be able to immi­grate to the U.S. via Cana­da. Their jour­ney is event­ful and filled with adven­tures, some excit­ing, oth­ers fright­en­ing, but they final­ly arrive at the farm school in Cana­da and begin to build new, pro­duc­tive lives.

Adding res­o­nance and depth to the sto­ry, the chil­dren have been trained in music by a ded­i­cat­ed and tal­ent­ed music teacher at the orphan­age in Poland, and pro­tag­o­nist Jacob has become a devot­ed and pro­fi­cient play­er of the man­dolin. The musi­cal instru­ments accom­pa­ny the chil­dren on their jour­ney to the New World and the sto­ry cul­mi­nates in the expe­ri­ence of a life­time — an oppor­tu­ni­ty to play at a con­cert in New York’s famed Carnegie Hall.

This era, not often addressed in children’s lit­er­a­ture, has been exten­sive­ly researched by Dublin and her evoca­tive descrip­tions bring the sto­ry to life. His­tor­i­cal notes add back­ground and con­text and include a map as well as orig­i­nal black-and-white pho­tographs fea­tur­ing the orphans and oth­ers, scenes at the farm school and in New York, and the pro­gram from the con­cert at Carnegie Hall. A com­pre­hen­sive list of sources is append­ed, and those suit­able for fur­ther research by chil­dren of the age group are noted.

Michal Hoschan­der Malen is the edi­tor of Jew­ish Book Coun­cil’s young adult and children’s book reviews. A for­mer librar­i­an, she has lec­tured on top­ics relat­ing to lit­er­a­cy, run book clubs, and loves to read aloud to her grandchildren.

Discussion Questions