The Gift of Friendship

Chani Altein
  • Review
By – March 2, 2012
This is a sweet sto­ry of Esther Rosen, a fourth grade girl who befriends her new neigh­bor, an old­er woman named Mrs. Klein­man. Esther strug­gles with nor­mal day to day issues deal­ing with school and fam­i­ly, but main­tains an ongo­ing rela­tion­ship with Mrs. Klein­man. When it appears Mrs. Klein­man may move away, it is Esther who comes up with a plan to help her friend. The rela­tion­ship between Esther and Mrs. Klein­man is ten­der, and the con­clu­sion of the sto­ry is sat­is­fy­ing. Esther starts out as a nice girl, who does the right thing. She does gain some strength and wis­dom, although her char­ac­ter arc is some­what lim­it­ed. Still, the author presents a pleas­ant slice of life sto­ry, and man­ages to avoid goody-goody” clichés. Through Esther, read­ers are gen­tly remind­ed that life is not about per­fec­tion, but mak­ing the best out of every sit­u­a­tion. Esther comes from a tra­di­tion­al reli­gious fam­i­ly, and the sto­ry could have been a ter­rif­ic venue for sec­u­lar and even non-Jews to have some insights into a reli­gious lifestyle. Although this is accom­plished in part as we see Esther in her dai­ly life, but many reli­gious ref­er­ences are dif­fi­cult to under­stand in con­text. While there is a glos­sary pro­vid­ed, young read­ers would be bet­ter served by clear­er expla­na­tions with­in the con­text of the sto­ry. Even so, Esther is a like­able char­ac­ter. Ortho­dox read­ers will espe­cial­ly appre­ci­ate a char­ac­ter they can relate to. Rec­om­mend­ed for ages 8 – 12.
Bar­bara Bietz is a free­lance writer and children’s book review­er. She is cur­rent­ly a mem­ber of the Syd­ney Tay­lor Book Award Com­mit­tee. Bar­bara is the author of the mid­dle grade book, Like a Mac­cabee. She has a blog ded­i­cat­ed to Jew­ish books for chil­dren at www​.Bar​baraB​Book​Blog​.Blogspot​.com.

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