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THE LIFE AND OPINIONS OF AMY FINAWITZ by Laura Toffler-Corrie

THE LIFE AND OPINIONS OF AMY FINAWITZ

By Laura Toffler-Corrie

Age Range: 10 - 13

Pub Date: Aug. 3rd, 2010
ISBN: 978-1-59643-580-3
Publisher: Roaring Brook

An eighth grader’s voice progresses from forced to funny in this medley of Judaisms. Manhattanite Amy, dramatically bereft of BFF Callie (who’s relocated to, gasp, a Kansas farm), narrates via long e-mail messages. A school assignment—reading immigrant journals (“immigrant” is a frequent term here, but used only historically)—enlists Amy’s motley flock of detectives: elderly neighbor Miss Sophia, Sophia’s nephew Beryl, a teffilin-wearing Yeshiva boy, and slick eighth-grade hottie John. They cruise Manhattan’s boroughs and landmarks (copious taxi money taken for granted), exploring Anna Slonovich’s 19th-century life and stumbling upon a historical mystery. Amy alienates both Beryl and Callie through self-centered entitlement and mockery; she wins them back by learning humility. Ironically for a piece honoring past-century immigration, the text doesn’t question Amy’s dismissal of contemporary foreigners (non-English-speaking “Unpronounceable Name Cabbie,” who “smells bad”). Most special here is shy, stolid Beryl and the way Toffler-Corrie portrays both Beryl’s Orthodox Judaism (he’s deeply devoted) and Amy’s hippie-flaky Judaism (“tofu brisket” and some “challah that [mom] bought from the Italian deli (because it’s crusty)”) with value and sweetness. (Fiction. 10-13)