Levi & Aya

  • Review
By – May 3, 2016

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.

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