Any day now, I shall stop whining about the lack of non-Holocaust kids' books with Jewish characters. Fortunately, I have Charlotte Taylor of Charlotte's Library to point me in the right direction.
Charlotte's one of the most prolific and experienced review bloggers in the kidlitosphere, and that's no exaggeration. Her reviews nearly always show the depth and breadth of her reading, and her eye for the details that can make a story sing -- or sink.
She delves right into what makes "The Inquisitor's Apprentice" such an exquisitely fascinating -- and fun -- read for a middle grader. It's set in an alternate 19th century and every immigrant group brings to American soil their own particular type of magic. I like the knishes that guarantee your daughter will marry within the year. That would've saved my own Jewish mother lots of kvetching.
Young Sacha is caught up in a police crackdown against his own people, and Charlotte says the author doesn't shy away from a frank discussion of prejudice. Neither does she.
I also enjoyed the unlikely friendship that grew (slowly, and with difficulty) between Sacha and Lily. Part of the difficulty comes from the vast difference in their social status, and this is just one of many ways in which Moriarty brings themes of religion, class, immigration, and prejudice into his story telling. These issues simultaneously drive the plot and give depth to the characters and their actions. With its subtext of social justice and its New York setting, this would make a great book for the fan of mg sff to read while Occupying Wall Street. (In fact, I just learned, after typing that, that someone sent the Occupy Wall Street library four copies!).
Read the full review here.