Eddie Lewin, like many kids his age, is required to complete a mitzvah project, a stint of community service, during the year before his bar mitzvah ceremony. Eddie is assigned to a senior citizens’ facility and tasked with helping the elderly residents with their needs. He feels reluctant, uncomfortable, and awkward, but, as his rabbi and parents have given him no choice, he sets off to the Silver Brook Pavilion in the hope that he can do the minimum to pass his required hours and remain largely unnoticed.
Silver Brook’s residents include a quirky cast of characters, including some who are convinced that the facility is haunted. The staff members are not quite what Eddie expects either. A classmate named Tessa is a fellow volunteer who has her own take on the daily occurrences at Silver Brook. Most disturbing of all, a mysterious thief prowls the premises, complicating Eddie’s life when Eddie becomes one of the prime suspects. He needs to prove his innocence, preserve his reputation, and successfully complete his commitment before the rapidly approaching date of his bar mitzvah.
The mysteries at the senior citizen facility deepen as Eddie and Tessa attempt to get to the bottom of these unsettling events. The mystery is engaging, but the characterizations are at the heart of this appealing story of a young man who is beginning to mature and is continuing to learn about the world around him. As the story progresses, Eddie grows in sensitivity, deepens his understanding of others, develops empathy, and learns to stand up for himself. The mitzvah project, just as it is designed to do, benefits not only the senior citizens in need of assistance,but also helps Eddie learn about the world around him and what he can contribute to it as a maturing young man.
With a hearty dash of humor and a healthy dose of common sense, Lois Ruby presents readers with an amusing, yet substantive, story that is both thought provoking and fun.
Michal Hoschander Malen is the editor of Jewish Book Council’s young adult and children’s book reviews. A former librarian, she has lectured on topics relating to literacy, run book clubs, and loves to read aloud to her grandchildren.