Amy Finawitz, a consummate New Yorker, greatly misses her best friend, who has deserted her to spend their eighth grade school year in (gasp!) Kansas, leaving Amy with what she considers to be the dorky kids as her only friends. When Amy’s confirmation teacher at Temple Beth Shalom assigns students a journal of an immigrant who lived around the turn of the century, she encourages them to travel around the city experiencing places as through each immigrant’s eyes. Amy makes new friends who help her with this research: Miss Sophia, an adventurous retired librarian, and Beryl, her religious Hasidic nephew. Readers learn about the history of New York City as Amy and her friends visit such places as the Immigrant Museum and Coney Island. Another friend is added to this unusual group when Amy discovers that the class hunk is sometimes insecure despite his popularity, and is a history buff who enjoys helping her. Amy’s self-centered world is further expanded when she meets Beryl’s warm, loving family and begins to develop some understanding of Orthodox customs. Amy is a plucky but not always likable heroine. Her readers will identify with the trials of middleschool life and Amy’s efforts to become popular. The dialogue is humorously written and much of it is peppered with Amy’s e-mails and funny creative plays. Occasionally the author uses some dated phrases, i.e. “don’t get your knickers in a twist.” But the story is noteworthy because it imparts such values as the true meaning of friendship and the importance of learning about peoples’ different Jewish lifestyles. The inviting cover combines with the cast of colorful characters and the values imparted to make this a recommended purchase. Ages 11 – 13.
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.