A social historian who has produced many excellent books for young people--including Rescue (above), Never to Forget(on the Holocaust), books on various ethnic groups and the immigrant experience, books reflecting social concerns, and several biographies--describes his first 17 years as a second-generation American. Born on New York's Lower East Side in 1919 to parents who had to struggle for every penny, Meltzer grew up in Worcester, Mass., where the family had somewhat more space and his father was able (by washing windows) to earn enough to scrape by--at least fill the Depression. True to form, Meltzer gives us his own particular social history--explaining that many things now taken for granted seemed very different then (sweets were extraordinary luxuries to his newly arrived parents); compiling his most vivid memories; and detailing his reading and education (although he had an inspiring English teacher, he reports that concentrating on facts killed curiosity and taught students to "con the teacher and beat the system"). He's candid about some misdemeanors, and gives a few especially revealing glimpses: a rare caress from his father, a sudden slap from his mother when she heard he was dating a non-Jew, his own chagrin at the negative image of Jews in Shakespeare and Dickens. A straightforward, engaging account of the early years of a wise, humane writer and person.