Mort Ziff Is Not Dead

Cary Fagan

  • Review
By – July 23, 2018

It’s the win­ter of 1965 in Toron­to, and Nor­man, the youngest of three, feels he doesn’t quite fit in with his old­er broth­ers. His par­ents call him Normy,” which his broth­ers — who seem to do all they can to make his life mis­er­able — change to Wormy.”

Things look up a bit when Nor­man wins a con­test with a prize of $1,000. Since mon­ey is tight, his par­ents hope he will con­tribute his win­nings to the pur­chase of a new roof, a new car, or pos­si­bly put the mon­ey toward his col­lege fund — but they leave the deci­sion up to him. Instead, he sug­gests a fam­i­ly vaca­tion to Mia­mi Beach. His par­ents slow­ly come around to the idea, and his broth­ers are delighted.

The fam­i­ly has nev­er trav­eled before and are elat­ed to stay at the fan­ci­est hotel on the beach. Upon arriv­ing, the three broth­ers meet three sis­ters from New Jer­sey and the fun begins. The two old­er broth­ers are com­pet­i­tive with the two old­er sis­ters, while Nor­man and the youngest sis­ter, Amy, join forces to stand up to their siblings.

The first night’s enter­tain­ment is a come­di­an named Mort Ziff, an old-timer who looks like he has seen bet­ter days. When Nor­man and Amy find out Mort is about to lose his job, they decide to make a project of keep­ing him employed. Their kind­ness, con­cern, and inge­nu­ity send the mes­sage to read­ers that even young peo­ple can make a difference.

This enter­tain­ing book con­tains one heavy-hand­ed moment, when the cab dri­ver who takes the fam­i­ly from the hotel to the air­port explains the prob­lem of dis­crim­i­na­tion against minor­i­ty enter­tain­ers. While it’s a wor­thy mes­sage, it seems thrown in as an afterthought.

Over­all, this is a humor­ous and easy read. Fagan has a knack for per­fect­ly cap­tur­ing the dia­logue of this age group.

Marge Kaplan is a retired Eng­lish as a Sec­ond Lan­guage teacher. She is a con­sul­tant for the children’s lit­er­a­ture group for the Roseville, MN school sys­tem and is a sto­ry­teller of Jew­ish tales.

Discussion Questions