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.