Friday, June 05, 2009

Keeping the Candles: Meet Rebecca by Jaqueline Dembar Greene

It's no more Moyshe Shereshevsky! It's Max Shepard. It's an American name for an American actor!

"American!" Bubbie grumbled. "Always changing with the names. You don't change a name like a dirty shirt!"

But things are changing in Rebecca Rubin's life and in the world around her. It's 1914 in New York City, and her Uncle Moyshe now calls himself Max, American movie actor. The clouds of war are gathering over Europe, and the difference between her comfortable life as a shopkeeper's daughter and her cousin Ana's threatened life back in her Russian village make Rebecca uneasy.

Her mother tells her that at nine she is too young to light the Sabbath candles, and when she tries to earn money to help pay for her cousin's family's passage to America, her grandmother tells her it is not respectable for girls to become actors and singers, despite Becky's obvious talents as a front stoop songstress.

But Becky finds that she can help her father in the shop on Saturdays, despite the disapproval of her grandparents for working on the Sabbath, and Becky discovers that another talent of hers, crocheting intricate linens, can earn even more money than her doorstep singing and dancing. Soon her older twin sisters and even Bubbie contribute their traditional handcrafted trousseau pieces to Rebecca's artful display at the shop, and it looks as if, thanks to her cleverness and Uncle Max's contribution from his first movie contract, there will be enough money for cousin Ana's family to come to America after all.

Author Jacqueline Dembar Greene treats the tension between tradition and the demands of a new life in the immigrant Jewish community respectfully. Her Rebecca both hopes to take on the lighting of the Sabbath candles and longs to follow her talent, like her Uncle Max has done, onto the stage. The notable American Girl Collection provides a snapshot of daily life and times over the range of American history, from the Felicity of colonial days to Julie of the 1970s, and Rebecca Rosen's story is a worthy addition to this notable series.

As always, a highly readable appendix provides period photos and artifacts from the period along with text which puts the period in context with the historical times in which the novel is set.

Other titles in the just published Rebecca series include Rebecca and Ana (American Girls Collection), Candlelight for Rebecca (American Girls Collection), Rebecca and the Movies (American Girls Collection), Rebecca to the Rescue (American Girls Collection), and Changes for Rebecca (American Girls Collection).

Labels: , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home