Over Shabbos, and finishing this morning, I read two books from a new set of children’s historical fiction from Israel Bookshop. I’m also reading another book I’d hoped to have to discuss with you today, but it isn’t finished, so I’ll go ahead.

112. Ten and a Kid by Sadie Rose Weilerstein

This is a new edition of a book originally published in 1961, and it’s lovely. It’s one year in the life of a happy but poor family in the Shtetl, from the Pesach where a kid goat turns up just at the right time for the middle daughter to decide he has been left for them by Eliyahu haNavi to the following Pesach, by which time the various members of the family have each had some of their dearest wishes granted. The book has well integrated occasional illustrations, and is a lot of fun. I’d recommend it heartily (as would a colleague who saw it before I’d begun it, and remembered it favourably from her own childhood).

113. Exiled Down Under by Miriam Szokovski

Unfortunately the new series is badly let down by this book, which I really thought had a lot of potential, from its stablemate and from the first chapter, but it’s ridiculous, and not even mostly in the ways it tries to be. The basic storyline (an eleven year old Jewish girl in 18th century England is mistakenly accused of pickpocketing and sentenced to transportation to Australia, where she is assigned to work as housemaid to an aristocratic English family whose mistress takes a shine to her) could have become a very good novel in the hands of someone willing to do the basic historical research to make it realistic. As it was, the obvious inaccuracies and implausibilities (children being sent alone to the market to buy fruits like oranges and bananas that surely would have been luxuries if available at all, names like Kimberly and Rhonda, and worst of all, characters saying “okay“, all in the 18th century) made the wild exaggerations seem to me not amusing but stupid. The story just about hangs together, but is not well crafted, and I’m actually more disappointed with the publishers than the author, as I feel they should have helped her bring this story to a much higher standard.

13th May: ETA Some of the kids I know who have read this really like it. I suspect they don’t know enough of the history to be so upset at the mangling that they can’t enjoy it, which is what happened to me.


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