The Book of Elsie

  • Review
By – July 19, 2022

Author Joanne Levy cov­ers quite a bit of ground in the 160 pages of this high-inter­est, acces­si­ble, mid­dle-grade nov­el: Jew­ish hol­i­days and cus­toms, com­mu­ni­ty out­reach, social action, anti­semitism, racism, homo­pho­bia, and even a recipe for the Purim cook­ie, hamantaschen.

The enthu­si­as­tic nar­ra­tor, Elsie Rose-Levy, is excit­ed about her synagogue’s Purim Par­ty and longs not only to dress up as the beau­ti­ful Queen Esther, but also to act strong and fierce like her. When Elsie finds out that the par­ty must be can­celed due to finan­cial issues, she comes up with a plan to make the event a fundrais­er and invites the whole com­mu­ni­ty. Despite wide support(and Elsie’s many tick­et sales), the syn­a­gogue is van­dal­ized by unknown forces, prompt­ing yet anoth­er can­cel­la­tion. When com­mu­ni­ty helpers turn up, the par­ty becomes a clean-up and con­cludes with a dra­mat­ic read­ing of the Book of Esther. Elsie sums up the expe­ri­ence when she says, I’m not going to let hate get into my heart. Like Queen Esther, I’m going to be strong and brave.”

Both Jew­ish and non-Jew­ish read­ers will be inspired by Elsie’s brav­ery while learn­ing about Jew­ish hol­i­days and com­mu­ni­ty sup­port. This book would make a per­fect gift for a young Jew­ish girl.

Paula Chaiken has worked in a vari­ety of capac­i­ties in the Jew­ish world — teach­ing in reli­gious school, curat­ing at the Sper­tus Muse­um and fundrais­ing for the Fed­er­a­tion — for more than twen­ty years. She also runs a bou­tique pub­lic rela­tions con­sult­ing firm and enjoys read­ing all sorts of books with her three sons.

Discussion Questions