Liba’s Let­ters

Miri­am Wal­fish; Drea­Mak­er Stu­dio, illus.
  • Review
By – September 18, 2013

Liba’s Palace is the sto­ry of eleven-year-old Liba Miller, who trav­els from Rus­sia to South Africa with her fam­i­ly in 1910 to take over her uncle’s hotel. The Jew­ish com- muni­ty in South Africa is friend­ly and wel­com­ing but the tran­si­tion is not easy. Because Afrikaans, the lan­guage spo­ken in South Africa, is sim­i­lar to Yid­dish, Liba finds that she can under­stand some of what the peo­ple around her are say­ing. After her father is told that the hotel must be torn down because of code vio­la­tions, Liba over­hears a con­ver­sa- tion that leads her to believe some­thing more is going on than meets the eye. Sure enough, her dili­gence and atten­tive­ness pay off and she is able to help her fam­i­ly keep the hotel.

Liba’s Let­ters is the sec­ond book in the series. Liba is hav­ing trou­ble fit­ting in to her new school and is excit­ed to receive a let­ter from Bay­la, her best friend in Rus­sia, telling her that Bay­la and her fam­i­ly will soon join Liba in South Africa. Liba thinks that hav­ing Bay­la with her will solve all of her prob­lems and looks for­ward to her friend’s arrival. Mean­while, she is busy help­ing her father run the hotel. Bayla’s fam­i­ly runs into dif­fi­cul- ties with their immi­gra­tion sta­tus and her sub­se­quent let­ters explain that they may move to South Africa lat­er, or per­haps not at all. Liba is dev­as­tat­ed but even­tu­al­ly learns some valu­able lessons about friend­ship and find­ing the brighter side of life. Some unusu­al hotel guests are part of her learn­ing process. The life lessons she learns are rein­forced by her Jew­ish edu­ca­tion and she grows and matures by the end of the story.

The books do an excel­lent job of por­tray­ing the lives of Jew­ish immi­grants to South Africa in the ear­ly 1900s. Fans will look for­ward to future addi­tions to the series.

Rec­om­mend­ed for ages 7 – 10.

Addi­tion­al Title Fea­tured in Review

Dana Bjorn­stad is a moth­er of three and a teacher. She taught mid­dle school for 13 years — read­ing, social stud­ies, sci­ence and art. She cur­rent­ly sub­sti­tute teach­es all grade lev­els and subjects.

Discussion Questions