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RIVKA’S FIRST THANKSGIVING by Elsa Okon Rael

RIVKA’S FIRST THANKSGIVING

By Elsa Okon Rael (Author) , Maryann Kovalski (Illustrator)

Age Range: 5 - 8

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 2001
ISBN: 0-689-83901-4
Publisher: McElderry

This paean to the wisdom of children is based on Rael’s (When Zaydeh Danced on Eldridge Street, 1997, etc.) own memories as a child of Jewish immigrants growing up on Manhattan’s Lower East Side and will remind many readers of Barbara Cohen’s Molly’s Pilgrim. Like Cohen’s tale, Rivka Rubin’s story is set in early 20th-century New York City. In Rael’s treatment, however, it is the child who understands intuitively that Thanksgiving is indeed a holiday for all Americans and thus may rightfully be embraced by recently arrived Jews, for they have much to be grateful for in having arrived in the US. It’s not so easy to convince the adults around her, though, unfamiliar as they are with this American tradition. The neighborhood’s revered rabbi initially decides that Thanksgiving is not a celebration for Jews, and that’s enough to settle the matter for Rivka’s family. Determinedly and with a show of the special brand of chutzpah given only to children, Rivka writes the rabbi a letter that begins: “My Bubbeh believes you are the wisest man in the whole world, but I cannot agree with her.” The rabbi ultimately gives his blessing to Rivka’s argument and is invited to sit at the head of the table at the Rubin family’s first Thanksgiving celebration in America. Kovalski’s (Jingle Bells, 1999, etc.) charming drawings, rendered in colored pencils and acrylics, burst with good cheer and beautifully depict the bustling streets of the Lower East Side and its close-knit families. (glossary) (Picture book. 5-8)