This is a sweet story of Esther Rosen, a fourth grade girl who befriends her new neighbor, an older woman named Mrs. Kleinman. Esther struggles with normal day to day issues dealing with school and family, but maintains an ongoing relationship with Mrs. Kleinman. When it appears Mrs. Kleinman may move away, it is Esther who comes up with a plan to help her friend. The relationship between Esther and Mrs. Kleinman is tender, and the conclusion of the story is satisfying. Esther starts out as a nice girl, who does the right thing. She does gain some strength and wisdom, although her character arc is somewhat limited. Still, the author presents a pleasant slice of life story, and manages to avoid “goody-goody” clichés. Through Esther, readers are gently reminded that life is not about perfection, but making the best out of every situation. Esther comes from a traditional religious family, and the story could have been a terrific venue for secular and even non-Jews to have some insights into a religious lifestyle. Although this is accomplished in part as we see Esther in her daily life, but many religious references are difficult to understand in context. While there is a glossary provided, young readers would be better served by clearer explanations within the context of the story. Even so, Esther is a likeable character. Orthodox readers will especially appreciate a character they can relate to. Recommended for ages 8 – 12.
Barbara Bietz is a freelance writer and children’s book reviewer. She is currently a member of the Sydney Taylor Book Award Committee. Barbara is the author of the middle grade book, Like a Maccabee. She has a blog dedicated to Jewish books for children at www.BarbaraBBookBlog.Blogspot.com.