THE DIARY OF MORDEKHAI BEN-YOSEF by Benjamin B. Wolman

THE DIARY OF MORDEKHAI BEN-YOSEF

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Dr. Wolman (Children's Fears, etc.) is a veteran specialist in child psychology--but this slight first novel, the 1973-74 diary of a 14-year-old Israeli boy, has neither depth nor particular credibility. Writing in a stiff, rather saccharine littleboy style, Mordekhai discusses his nice but taciturn father (a cabinetmaker), his busy mother (a nurse), his grandparents, his trips from hometown Salad to beloved Jerusalem. (""Golda Meir is smart and brave, that's why she is now our Prime Minister."") Mostly, however, Mordekhai writes about his puppy-love passion for classmate Miriam Stern, who seems to love him in return--but spends more and more time in mysterious visits to middle-aged painter Mr. Richard, their mutual friend. (He counsels would-be writer Mordekhai on the pros and cons of the artist's life.) Even when the Yom Kippur War breaks out, with Mordekhai's father suddenly summoned to combat, he continues to be obsessed with jealousy--until the explanation for Miriam's visits (an obvious, cutesy one) is finally revealed. Meanwhile, the war serves up further jolts: the capture of Mordekhai's father by the Syrians; the death of Miriam's doctor-father; the enforced end of chumship between Mordekhai and Arab lad Mustafa. And the last few pages bring a crude finale of melodrama and message: Miriam is one of the youngsters killed in the May, 1974 terrorist hostage-taking at Ma'alot--after which Mordekhai's father, safely returned from POW-dom, concludes the novel with advice about the Arabs for his grieving son. (""We shall never surrender. . . . They are three hundred million, and we are three million. They own whole continents, and we are defending this little scrap of land the Lord gave to our fathers. Be brave, Mordekhai, my son."") An unsatisfying mixture of YA-style growing pains and pro-Israel polemics--much too thin and tinny, even for most teenage readers.

Pub Date: Dec. 1st, 1984
Publisher: Schocken