Pen­i­na Levine is a Hard-Boiled Egg

Rebec­ca O’Connell; Majel­la Lue Su, illus.
  • Review
By – April 2, 2012

Pen­i­na Levine is one of only two Jew­ish sixth graders in Mrs. Anderson’s class in pub­lic school. The class has been giv­en an assign­ment to write let­ters from the East­er Bun­ny” to kinder­garten kids in the near­by Holy Fam­i­ly School. Pen­i­na strong­ly believes she should not write the let­ter because she is Jew­ish and she doesn’t believe in the East­er Bun­ny”. Her teacher and oth­ers in the class feel she is mak­ing a big deal out of some­thing minor, but Pen­i­na has no trou­ble with being dif­fer­ent, and she is quite deter­mined that oth­ers see things her way, so she holds her ground. 

She doesn’t tell her par­ents about the assign­ment because she feels they don’t lis­ten to her and favor her younger sis­ter, Mim­sy. (This per­cep­tion of favoritism is anoth­er aspect of Penina’s will­ful per­son­al­i­ty.) She does tell her grand­moth­er how­ev­er, when they are prepar­ing the meal for the Passover Seder. Her grand­moth­er says she is like a hard-boiled egg because when you boil it, it gets hard, just like the Jews: When the heat is on, we don’t turn to mush — we get tougher.” Her grand­moth­er is proud of her for stick­ing up for her beliefs and not writ­ing the let­ter. Even­tu­al­ly Pen­i­na tells her par­ents about the assign­ment and they tell the prin­ci­pal, who then talks to the class about diver­si­ty. Mrs. Ander­son, Penina’s teacher, apol­o­gizes and Pen­i­na and her fam­i­ly invite her to a Shab­bat din­ner. The sto­ry moves along briskly and Pen­i­na is an appeal­ing and feisty Jew­ish char­ac­ter with much humor. The sim­ple black and while line draw­ings are spaced well and com­ple­ment the text. This engag­ing char­ac­ter will grace future mid­dle grade nov­els relat­ing the mod­ern Jew­ish expe­ri­ence for chil­dren. For ages 9 – 12

Bar­bara Sil­ver­man had an M.L.S. from Texas Woman’s Uni­ver­si­ty. She worked as a children’s librar­i­an at the Cor­pus Christi Pub­lic Libraries and at the Cor­pus Christi ISD before retir­ing. She worked as a vol­un­teer at the Astor Juda­ic Library of the Lawrence Fam­i­ly JCC in La Jol­la, CA. Sad­ly, Bar­bara passed away is 2012.

Discussion Questions