Ruth and Sammy’s vacation to their grandparents’ retirement community presents a nostalgic look at 1970s Jewish Florida, when Yiddish-rich English was the norm.
On the plane by themselves, the siblings, 7 and 13 respectively, are excited to leave winter and ready to enjoy the warmth of Florida, where “shvitzing” (sweating) is enjoyed, Grandma jokes about how her “shmaltz” (fat) helps her float in the pool, and all the visiting grandkids act like “meshuggeners” as they splash and scream. The house is full of “tchotchkes,” and Muffin, the pet dog, is called a “lobus” (wise guy) because he cannot decide if he wants to be inside or out. Sammy’s ready to grab Grandma’s hand for the fun. Oy gevalt! Actress Skye’s fond memories of her childhood experiences in the Sunshine State will seem outdated to today’s Internet-savvy generation. And while keeping the Old World language alive may be a worthy motive, this presentation is irksome in its conventional approach. Bland, black-outlined cartoon characterizations of stereotypical “alter kockers” (old guys) playing shuffleboard in their Bermuda shorts and frumpy, bespectacled “yentas” gossiping over lunch may appeal to the older portion of a multigenerational audience, but young readers are more likely to find them grotesque. Ruth’s present-tense narration is undistinguished if upbeat, often laboriously explaining Yiddish words to readers rather than artfully folding them into her text.
Cheery self-indulgence. (glossary) (Picture book. 5-9)