Penina Levine is a Hard-Boiled Egg

Roaring Brook Press  2007


Penina Levine is one of only two Jewish sixth graders in Mrs. Anderson’s class in public school. The class has been given an assignment to write letters “from the Easter Bunny” to kindergarten kids in the nearby Holy Family School. Penina strongly believes she should not write the letter because she is Jewish and she “doesn’t believe in the Easter Bunny”. Her teacher and others in the class feel she is making a big deal out of something minor, but Penina has no trouble with being different, and she is quite determined that others see things her way, so she holds her ground.

She doesn’t tell her parents about the assignment because she feels they don’t listen to her and favor her younger sister, Mimsy. (This perception of favoritism is another aspect of Penina’s willful personality.) She does tell her grandmother however, when they are preparing the meal for the Passover Seder. Her grandmother says she is like a hard-boiled egg because when you boil it, it gets hard, just like the Jews: “When the heat is on, we don’t turn to mush—we get tougher.” Her grandmother is proud of her for sticking up for her beliefs and not writing the letter. Eventually Penina tells her parents about the assignment and they tell the principal, who then talks to the class about diversity. Mrs. Anderson, Penina’s teacher, apologizes and Penina and her family invite her to a Shabbat dinner. The story moves along briskly and Penina is an appealing and feisty Jewish character with much humor. The simple black and while line drawings are spaced well and complement the text. This engaging character will grace future middle grade novels relating the modern Jewish experience for children. For ages 9–12.

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