When Annie White’s engineer parents go to Micronesia for work, Annie stays with her aunt Becka, an artist who lives in the Catskill Mountains of New York State. Worldly and wise from travels with her parents, she finds little in common with her appearance-conscious classmates. But she meets Esty Krystal, Becka’s Orthodox neighbor. Annie is fascinated by her large family and intrigued by their Sabbath observance. Her curiosity is sparked, and she soon starts asking questions about her own family and background. Aunt Becka joins in, and soon they travel to Brooklyn to meet relatives Annie had not known existed. Annie finds out that the family name was originally “Weissfish” (hence the title), but was changed to preclude anti-Semitism. Becka’s art is inspired by her reading of the Bible. She and Annie begin to observe the Sabbath, and Annie decides to attend the local Jewish school. Annie’s parents decide to cease their travels after their project is completed.
The free verse makes this a quick read. While it is somewhat overused in secular books, this is refreshing and lyrical in a book targeted to Orthodox readers. The characters are thoughtful and insightful; Aunt Becka knows she is not ready to marry because she “could not turn the page onto the next chapter of my life when so many chapters were missing…” Many subjects are brought up: the self-consciousness of 14-year-old girls, the Holocaust, anti-Semitism, family tensions — some more developed than others. While geared toward female Orthodox readers aged 12 through 16, it is highly recommended for all Jewish readers.