Rosenthal debuts with a slim, easily readable free-verse novel from the perspective of a girl who feels enveloped but lost in her enormous family.
Eleven-year-old Edith, fourth among her parents’ 12 children, feels that “[i]n my overcrowded family / I’m just another face. / I’m just plain Edith / of no special place.” Old enough to care for siblings and work her parents’ diner until almost two in the morning, young enough to care about a Shirley Temple doll, Edith needs a teacher’s nudge to find an identity. “[T]he Depression + lots of kids = never enough money,” so leaky shoes need cardboard, clothes are “hand-me-down / down / down / down / downs” and the family almost loses their house (but doesn’t). Contemporary, recession-aware readers will relate to Edith’s financial woes and also her realization that other people are even poorer. The author uses her mother’s history of growing up Jewish in Depression-era Baltimore as a basis, describing a certain kind of American Judaism (cheating on kosher rules with crab cakes; celebrating Christmas as Jews “because here in America / we can celebrate / anything we want”) and family tragedy in bare-bones verse so simple that the occasional rhyme is startling.
Less flavorful than its ancestors, Barbara Cohen’s The Carp in the Bathtub (1972) and Sydney Taylor’s All-of-a-Kind Family series, this is still a good companion for them. (author’s note, family photos, glossary) (Free verse/historical fiction. 8-12)