Books by Robert Lehrman

THE STORE THAT MAMA BUILT by Robert Lehrman
CHILDREN'S
Released: May 29, 1992

Birdie Fried is 12 in 1917 when her father dies, leaving her mother with six children to provide for in the mill town of Steelton, Pa. The Frieds are Russian-Jewish immigrants; Mr. Fried was about to open a small grocery when he died. Desperate to avoid going back to N.Y.C.'s roach-infested tenements, Birdie and her sibs pitch in to do everything they can to help their mother, who knows very little English, manage the store. Its eventual success is due in large part to Birdie, who doesn't allow prejudice to prevent her from advertising for customers in the poor black neighborhood her family has been warned to avoid. Based in part on the author's family history, this affecting novel shows how immigrant families ventured everything they had in the days before social safety nets. Birdie's strong-willed, compassionate mother is especially memorable, as are descriptions of compromises between the family's Orthodox beliefs and the exigencies of commerce. Anti-Semitic and black prejudices of the period are dealt with frankly. Some dialogue in Hebrew, Yiddish (usually translated), and dialectical English. Unusually good historical fiction. (Fiction. 8-12) Read full book review >

When Kim's parents divorce, she and her mother move from the suburbs into New York City, and her hopes to become a ranked tennis player seem doomed (apparently, a move to Manhattan is sure trouble for its lack of courts). But Kim perseveres with a good coach, daily workouts in Central Park, and games with a new friend. Meanwhile, she secretly meets her father for games, yearns to play a different style of tennis than the one at which she excels, and believes that her mother probably lost her father because she "let herself go." Tennis terms and moves clutter and even obscure the court scenes here, as well as Kim's discussions with her friends and parents over how she should change her game. Intent on depicting the joys and downside of New York life, Lehrman sometimes allows his storyline to go under. Still, he scores with some refreshing scenes of divorce (Kim's parents sit ill the front seat of a 1980 Mercedes, both sobbing). Read full book review >