This is a textured text, semi-true but true blue in many ways. It’s the immigrant tale of real-life German-Jewish Levi Strauss who came to the California to start a new life during the time of the gold rush and became known for producing blue jeans popular to this very day. What is less known is his firm friendship with another immigrant, a young woman from Japan named Aya. The author focuses on their shared immigrant experience as they both became American but also on the parts of their backgrounds and histories that less obviously dovetail, such as words in their languages that sound the same and concepts that are important to all.
The book is filled with boxed facts which tangentially relate to the main story and are interesting enough to broaden the book’s scope. The unusual illustrations look like fabric, sometimes like the denim for which Strauss is so famous, but some have an Asian influence which reflect Aya and her background. The illustrations add to the overall charm and provide additional historical fact.
A note by the author at the end of the book puts all the facts into historical perspective. This is an unusual and creative approach to learning about a small wrinkle in American Jewish history.
Recommended for ages 7 – 10.
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.