Rifka accidentally finds herself onstage in a Yiddish theater production and speaks her first lines as an actress: “Piff-Paff! Not to worry.”
The Yiddish theater was a vibrant part of immigrant life in New York in the first part of the 20th century. Rifka’s parents are actors who introduce her to the magical world of that theater. She is especially impressed with the way in which her parents can take on the personae of the characters they play, with just a bit of makeup, some props and costumes, and changes in body language. The surrounding elements of the city are also part of the fun. They travel on the subway with its noise and diversity. They eat at the Automat, putting in their nickels and taking out the food. Perlov makes it all come alive, employing a conversational syntax that speaks directly to readers. It is a memoir told with love and nostalgia, for it is her own story, told from a distance of nine decades. Kawa’s illustrations are as magical as any theater experience. She employs a variety of media to turn real places and events into fantasy landscapes from several perspectives, in dreamlike images that are somewhat reminiscent of Chagall. Look closely and there are tiny shapes and designs floating through the larger pictures.
Unusual and unabashedly charming. (afterword) (Picture book. 5-9)