Review: Broken Strings

Book: Broken Strings (2019)
Author: Eric Walters and Kathy Kacer
Genre: MG, Near Historical (2002)
Rating: 3 stars

broken-stringsBasic plot: Shirli Berman has been cast in the musical, Fiddler on the Roof… although not quite in the role she’d hoped for (Hodel). She gets to be an old Jewish mama (Golde); and as she goes to her Jewish grandfather to help give her inspiration for the role, she begins to uncover his own history… something he never talked about. Until now.

WHAT’S COOL…

1) The musical, Fiddler on the Roof, was one of the musicals I was a part of in high school. Although, I didn’t get such a plum role as Golde! So, I did enjoy attending the rehearsals with Shirli and all her friends.

2) I loved the relationship between Shirli and her grandfather, Zayde. Every day (or close to it), she brings him groceries and they have tea and talk. Shirli even brings Ben (Tevye in the musical).

3) I found it interesting that the setting is New Jersey in 2002, about six months after 9/11 happened. Of course, the book makes a bunch of connections with that event.

4) The historical connection with the Holocaust and the musicians who played at Auschwitz was something I haven’t come across before. I love it when history comes into books like this. Of course, this one is a very sad and heartbreaking connection.

WHAT’S NOT COOL…

1) [*Spoiler here] When their teacher is in an accident, Zayde comes forward to take her place until production. I wasn’t convinced by this plot point. First, he’s directing a musical he’s never seen before; and he’s avoided ALL musicals and the like for the past 50 years?? I would have preferred one of the kids to step up. Maybe Mindi, Shirli’s rival for Hodel…  [End Spoiler]

2) I wasn’t crazy about the puppy-love story between [*Spoiler] Shirli and Ben. I thought it was kind of unnecessary. And it was a tad predictable. [End Spoiler]

3) Why would ANYbody be unhappy to get the role of Golde is beyond me. (I could understand if she got the understudy.)

FINAL THOUGHTS

My rating is 3 Stars (out of 5) – I enjoyed this one. I’d recommend for any theatre enthusiasts, as well as those who have an interest in the history of the Holocaust.


YOUR TURN…

Have you read this book? What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Note: I’m posting this for Greg Pattridge’s Marvelous Middle-Grade Monday

Review: Towers Falling

towers-fallingBook: Towers Falling (2016)
Author: Jewell Parker Rhodes
Genre: MG, Contemporary
Rating: 4 Stars

Basic Plot: Deja lives with her family in what can only be described as a homeless shelter in Brooklyn. She’s at a new school, and she’s hoping to stay here. One day, Miss Garcia points out the difference in the Manhattan skyline–namely the absence of the Twin Towers. Deja is intrigued. She doesn’t know anything about those towers. However, when she brings them up to her father, his dark reaction surprises her. And now she’s afraid he’s going to take her away, not just from her new school, but from her new set of friends as well.

WHAT’S COOL…

1) I really enjoyed watching the friendship blossom between Deja, Ben, and Sabeen. We get to see it from the very beginning, which is nice.

2) I like how the teachers were dealing with the tragedy for a generation that was born after the towers fell. As a teacher in Queens in 2001, I taught the kids who lived through it. So, I was indeed fascinated by this. What blew my mind was that Miss Garcia (the teacher) was in 5th grade during 9/11!

3) The scene at the site of the World Trade Center… The author captured this memorial in a really wonderful way. I was just there, so it was all fresh in my mind. The water fall footprints of the towers. The white roses. The names. This part was possibly the best scene for me.

4) The storyline with the father was nicely done. (Although, I will say, when he finally speaks, he almost says too much. Which I felt was a little out of character for him.) This was a very emotional and cathartic scene.

5) I loved Deja’s dedication to her family. She helps her parents out with her two younger siblings. I loved her for that!

6) I really like what they did with the cover art… how the Freedom Tower stands where the Twin Towers once stood. And how things are upsidedown and topsy-turvy.

WHAT’S NOT COOL…

1) Deja was a little too introspective for me at times. Especially when you consider that she’s only ten years old. In some ways, she seems like a teenager.

2) When Deja goes to visit her friend Sabeen for the first time–Sabeen is Muslim–the family makes a comment that Deja would make a good Muslim. I found that a REALLY WEIRD thing to say to a child the first time you meet them. Especially a non-Muslim child. It felt like they were trying to convert her??

3) At one point in the book, Deja brings her dad to the school. He seems to walk right in, down the halls, and enters her classroom. Ahem. I taught school in NYC and NO PARENT (and certainly no adult, unless they were a teacher) was able to enter the school at all. Doors are locked. The only way in is through the school office. (The student entrances are locked or manned by a teacher.) So, I had a really hard time with this part of the plot.

FINAL THOUGHTS

My rating is 4 Stars (out of 5) – This book is about the events of 9/11, but 15 years after the fact. Since I lived and worked in New York City during September 11, 2001, I feel a close connection. However, I don’t like watching the footage. But this book hit the right notes for me. It’s not a perfect book, but it’s worth the read.


YOUR TURN…

Have you read this book? What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!