Sarah’s Solo

Tra­cy Brown, Paula Weg­man (illus.)

  • Review
By – March 1, 2021

When a child has been look­ing for­ward to a spe­cial event and has to miss it because of a fam­i­ly com­mit­ment, it is dif­fi­cult to reas­sure her that life will go on — espe­cial­ly one for which she has pre­pared and prac­ticed, such as a music or dance recital. In this love­ly sto­ry, young Sarah is dis­ap­point­ed to learn that her cous­in’s wed­ding con­flicts with the long await­ed recital at which she was to dance a solo. Nev­er­the­less, off she goes to the wed­ding because fam­i­ly is family.

Dur­ing the wed­ding, Sarah observes many cus­toms and tra­di­tions unique to a Jew­ish wed­ding. The bride cir­cles the groom under a chup­pah. There is live­ly hora-style danc­ing at which the bride and groom are lift­ed high up on chairs, gaz­ing down at the crowd below. Music and dance are every­where; the cir­cling under the chup­pah looks almost like a dance, and the cir­cle danc­ing is inclu­sive and fun. The bride draws Sarah into the cen­ter of the cir­cle to dance with her; Sarah, caught up in the joy of the moment, dances on and on. The guests applaud her with fer­vor and Sarah basks in the sound of the applause. Her con­clud­ing curt­sy is ele­gant­ly exe­cut­ed. Sarah real­izes that she has per­formed her dance solo to an admir­ing audi­ence! It seems that dreams can come true at unex­pect­ed times and in unan­tic­i­pat­ed ways.

The sto­ry is as grace­ful­ly pre­sent­ed as a well-rehearsed dance num­ber, and the illus­tra­tions whirl the sto­ry to even greater heights. The fan­cy bun atop Sarah’s red hair and her puffy par­ty dress are every aspir­ing young bal­leri­na’s dream. Homey Jew­ish touch­es include a meno­rah on the fam­i­ly book­shelf and an unmis­tak­able aura of sim­cha at the wed­ding. The musi­cians ooze a klezmer vibe; one can prac­ti­cal­ly hear the music com­ing off the page. The mul­ti­cul­tur­al crowd, the wheel­chair which looks right at home on the dance floor, the mix of young and old cel­e­brat­ing togeth­er, all trans­mit their gen­tle lessons sub­tly but clearly.

A clever after­word is both a glos­sary of terms and a sum­ma­ry of the tra­di­tions found at a Jew­ish wed­ding, all of which the read­er has encoun­tered with­in the pages of the sto­ry. The descrip­tions incor­po­rate the sto­ry itself, mak­ing this end­note feel woven into the text as an inte­gral part of the book.

The impor­tance of cel­e­brat­ing mile­stones with fam­i­ly is high­light­ed and chil­dren (and adults, too) will be remind­ed that there are many ways to ful­fill long-trea­sured dreams.

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.

Discussion Questions