Rosie’s Dream Cape

Zel­da Freed­man; Sil­vana Bevilac­qua, illus.
  • Review
By – May 14, 2012

This is a fic­tion­al­ized ver­sion of the author’s mother’s ear­ly life when she emi­grat­ed from Odessa, Rus­sia to Toron­to in 1921. At the age of 11, Rosie worked as a fin­ish­er” in a sweat­shop fac­to­ry in Toronto’s gar­ment dis­trict. Yitzy, the boss, yelled at the work­ers not to steal the scraps left from the capes and evening wraps they sewed for rich ladies and for Eaton’s Depart­ment Store. Rosie want­ed to make a cape like the one worn by her bal­le­ri­na moth­er, who was killed by the Cos­sacks before Rosie and her grand­moth­er, Bub­ba Sarah, fled to Toron­to. She couldn’t under­stand why scraps were wast­ed in the garbage, and when she swept them up, took some to make her cape. She want­ed to wear it to the Roy­al Alexan­dra The­atre where on Sun­day, her day off, she watched peo­ple enter­ing to see the bal­let, which she had attend­ed in Rus­sia to see her moth­er per­form. Read­ers will enjoy read­ing how Rosie deals with Yitzy when she con­fess­es to steal­ing the scraps to make her cape, and how she ulti­mate­ly gets invit­ed to see the bal­let at the the­atre. The lov­ing rela­tion­ship with her grand­moth­er is well devel­oped, and the author shows them cel­e­brat­ing the Sabbath. 

Freed­man ends by telling how Rosie became a union orga­niz­er, help­ing to make the work­ing con­di­tions at Yitzy’s fac­to­ry safer. The read­er will learn some his­to­ry of Toronto’s Jew­ish neigh­bor­hoods, includ­ing the Kens­ing­ton Mar­ket, which every­one called the Jew­ish People’s Market.” 

Black and white detailed illus­tra­tions and Rosie’s resource­ful char­ac­ter show read­ers how immi­grant chil­dren had to work instead of attend­ing school. This could be used as a dis­cus­sion starter, as Freed­man notes in her intro­duc­tion that there are still sweat­shops hid­den all over the world where young chil­dren slave over sewing machines.” For ages 9 – 12

Andrea David­son is the librar­i­an of The Tem­ple-Tifer­eth Israel in Beach­wood, Ohio. She holds an M.L.S. from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Michi­gan and is a for­mer mem­ber of the Syd­ney Tay­lor Book Awards Com­mit­tee. She enjoys try­ing out the books she reviews on the kids at the Tem­ple and on her grandchildren.

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