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Thursday, May 16, 2013

Jewish American Heritage Month

It's Jewish American Heritage Month. A lot of books for teens about Jews are about the Holocaust, or immigration. The vast majority is historical fiction. But, not all. Today we celebrate Jewish American Heritage Month with contemporary, realistic fiction.

    

So Punk Rock: And Other Ways to Disappoint Your Mother by Micol Ostrow, illustrated by David Ostrow. In order to be cooler, Ari starts a band at his Jewish day school. It's a motley crew of misfits, but they seriously rock. If only they could find away around school, parents, and romantic issues. Parts of it are told in graphic novel format, which works very well.

If You Come Softly by Jacqueline Woodson. Miah is one of the few black kids at his elite private school, but when he meets Ellie (white and Jewish) their love bridges their differences and helps them deal with complicated family situations.

You Are SO Not Invited to My Bat Mitzvah! by Fiona Rosenbloom. It's B'Nei Mitzvah season in Westchester County, which means plenty of drama as Stacy and her friends try to prove their status and worthiness by the size and style of the party they throw and what they where. But, in the midst of popularity games and parties, has Stacy lost site of what a Bat Mitzvah is all about? Follow it with We Are SO Crashing Your Bar Mitzvah!.

    

Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan. Nick and Norah pretend to be an item for a few minutes, just to fool Nick's ex-girlfriend (who just happens to be someone Norah knows.) What follows is a long night around Manhattan as the two fall in love.

How to Ruin a Summer Vacation by Simone Elkeles. Amy's doesn't consider herself Jewish, but her father is. Her father also lives in Israel and really isn't in the picture, until he calls and says her grandmother's sick, so Amy needs to come visit. Suddenly gone are her summer vacation plans of hanging out at the mall-- she's off to spend 3 months in Israel with family she's never met. The first in a trilogy, follow it with How to Ruin My Teenage Life.

A Brief Chapter in My Impossible Life by Dana Reinhardt. Simone's always known she was adopted, and now, suddenly, her birth mother wants to meet. Rivka is only in her early 30s, but she's dying of cancer. As the two get to know each other, Simone's entire world, and everything she thought she knew, changes.

    

OyMG by Amy Fellner Dominy. It Ellie wins the Christian Society Speech and Performing Arts summer camp, she's sure she'll get a scholarship to speech school. But when the scholarships donor might be anti-Semitic, should Ellie hide her religious identity to help her chances?

The Mozart Season by Virginia Euwer Wolff. At the age of 12, Allegra is the youngest competitor in the Ernest Bloch Young Musicians’ Competition. She knows the notes to her Mozart concerto and spends the summer trying to find the music. Along the way she makes friends and helps a troubled man find a piece that's been lost to him for years. One of my most favorite reads ever.

The Life and Opinions of Amy Finawitz by Laure Toffler-Corrie. Amy's best friend has moved away, and she keeps Callie caught up on life in New York through email. Most of her correspondance (we only get Amy's half) is filled with dread at a long-term project and the ease with which Callie seems to be adjusting to Kansas life. But, when Amy is forced to work on this project with Beryl (her elderly neighbor's Hasidic nephew) her worldview starts to expand the readers get a fun look into New York's past and present.

What are your favorite contemporary books with Jewish characters?

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