Thursday, September 27, 2012
Looking For Me...in this great big family, written by Betsy R. Rosenthal. Houghton Mifflin, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Thomas Allen & Son, 2012. $18.99 ages 9 and up
right where it belongs -
in the loops of his pants.
Maybe his hand would get too tired
whipping so many bottoms.
Maybe there are just too many of us
Maybe this is what
safety in numbers
In this debut novel in verse, Betsy Rosenthal shares her mother's story of growing up in a very large family, and not always being aware of her place in it, or in the world at large. While she loves her rambunctious and loving extended family, she often feels lost.
"I'm just plain Edith.
I'm number four,
and should anyone care,
I'm eleven years old,
with curly black hair."
Being among the oldest, Edith does a lot of the care giving for her younger siblings. She also works at the family diner, often until very late. There is a lot going on...the depression, many mouths to feed, and never enough money to feed and clothe everyone. It is rare for the children to have new clothes, or shoes. They often wear hand-me-downs. They almost lose their house at one point:
"When I finally got home,
my head still filled with thoughts
of all I'm missing at Bubby's,
I see a sign posted in front
of our row house -
Luckily, the government intervenes and the family stays put. Readers' awareness of the family's plight might be heightened by much of what has happened with other families in the last five years. It is a worry to many, as it was to Edith and her family during the tough times of the Depression. She finds it quite a revelation that there are people who have even less than her family does.
A poignant and often funny year in the life of one large Jewish family, this story will keep interested readers entertained and enlightened about a life that is perhaps quite different than their own. Even her simple wishes are often too much. Edith is lucky to have an understanding and empowering teacher who encourages to make a place for herself and to discover who she really is. Her voice is clear, personal and as readers we care about her very much.
Family photographs are a welcome addition, giving the audience a real family to consider. A glossary is helpful for unfamiliar terms and an author's note gives background information concerning the author's mother and the life she led after growing up:
"Edith, "the little mother," eventually grew up to become an extraordinary mother to my brother and me. And in case you're wondering, she did end up going to college, the only girl in her family to do so."