DEAR EMMA by Johanna Hurwitz


Age Range: 8 - 12
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The epistolary format works against this sequel to Faraway Summer (2001). Twelve-year-old Russian immigrant Dossi Rabinowitz is back in New York City with her sister Ruthie after a few weeks in Vermont, courtesy of the Fresh Air Fund. Her adventures continue in a series of letters written primarily to her Vermont friend, Emma. Ruthi marries Meyer, a young pharmacist, and Ruthi and Dossi move into his apartment. Dossi dislikes her new brother-in-law at first, but comes to appreciate him more after Ruthi learns she is expecting a baby. Then tragedy strikes: fire engulfs the Triangle Shirtwaist factory, where Ruthi used to work, and kills their friend Rosa along with over a hundred young seamstresses. Unfortunately, when this could have been grippingly dramatic, the letters keep the reader at bay. Only readers of Faraway Summer will understand anything about Emma, Nell, and the other Vermonters. Dossi’s voice often comes across as too adult and didactic, “As you know, diphtheria is a terrible illness that affects the breathing and is often fatal,” and, though she can remember her life in Russia and speaks English as a third language (Yiddish second), never sounds other than upper-class American. The characters don’t come to life until the end, when the letters to Emma begin to assume a more story-like form. Good enough, but it could have been better. (Fiction. 8-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 2002
ISBN: 0-06-029840-5
Page count: 160pp
Publisher: HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15th, 2002


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