By – November 13, 2023

Zip­py isn’t quite sure how she fits into her Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ty or the friend groups in her school. At the request of her par­ents, whose own Jew­ish obser­vances have always been sin­cere yet incon­sis­tent, she is prepar­ing for her bat mitz­vah cer­e­mo­ny and party.

The kids around her are becom­ing more mature and social­ly savvy, but Zip­py isn’t quite there yet. As her nascent feel­ings of spir­i­tu­al­i­ty mix with her child­hood inter­ests in witch­craft and the occult, she finds her­self unsure of the bound­aries between them. Then she meets a new friend — or is Miri­am actu­al­ly a friend? Might she real­ly be a dyb­buk, an ibbur, or anoth­er shad­owy crea­ture found in Jew­ish folk­lore? And what can Zip­py learn from this new rela­tion­ship to help her tran­si­tion into the next stage of her life?

This enter­tain­ing sto­ry will be of inter­est to young peo­ple attempt­ing to under­stand who they are and how they can mature. It will also intro­duce read­ers to some of the super­nat­ur­al crea­tures who are part of Jew­ish folk­lore and tradition.

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

When twelve-year-old Zip­py McConnell is sud­den­ly signed up for bat mitz­vah lessons, she isn’t sure how she feels about com­ing of age as a Jew­ish girl. She’s much more focused on com­ing into her pow­er as a witch — and deal­ing with the mys­te­ri­ous, winged, mem­o­ry­less fig­ure named Miri­am whom she’s just conjured. 

This book depicts mid­dle school social iso­la­tion while also embrac­ing Zippy’s unique path. Her par­ents and rab­bi treat her inter­est in Jew­ish mys­ti­cism with respect and nuance, and they help her hone her abil­i­ty to chan­nel Jew­ish folk­lore and magic.