Who Is Annie White (Fish)?

Judy Bel­sky
  • Review
By – February 1, 2016

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.

Kathe Pinchuck, M.L.I.S., is the librar­i­an of Con­gre­ga­tion Beth Sholom in Tea­neck, New Jer­sey. She is cur­rent­ly the chair of the Syd­ney Tay­lor Book Award Com­mit­tee of the Asso­ci­a­tion of Jew­ish Libraries.

Discussion Questions