Eleven-year-old Danny Wexler has some imagination; space aliens, werewolves, kidnappers, and disappearances in the Bermuda Triangle fill his thoughts and bring about some pretty wild theories about the world in which he lives. Life feels uncertain and filled with dangers, even in his familiar small town. But one thing is not a figment of Danny’s imagination: antisemitism. Antisemitic feelings percolating throughout the town are very real and cannot be denied.
Danny is the only Jewish boy in his school. When his father is threatened by antisemites in the factory while at work, and Danny faces similar threats by some of his classmates and their families, Danny must learn to distinguish real dangers from the imaginary kind. A serious chemical explosion at the factory adds drama but also supplies a catalyst for understanding and a focus for displays of kindness and caring, helping the citizens of the town draw closer and begin to move beyond suspicion and fear.
This fast-paced story, although filled with humor, is built on a foundation of neighborly bonds and mutual assistance. Danny, his family, and his closest friends are sympathetic and likeable. Some of the town’s residents are willing to learn about themselves and one another in spite of deeply rooted prejudice and layers of misunderstanding. Readers will be entertained but will also come away with food for thought and material for serious discussion with classmates, teachers, and parents as they read about an imaginative boy and the world in which he, and all of us, live.
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.