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TOO FAR FROM HOME by Naomi Shmuel


by Naomi Shmuel ; illustrated by Avi Katz

Pub Date: March 3rd, 2020
ISBN: 978-1-5415-4671-4
Publisher: Kar-Ben

A biracial girl encounters racism when she and her family move to a new city in Israel.

Meskerem and her little sisters were all born in Israel. She has always been proud of her loving, interracial Jewish family and of her mixed Ethiopian American heritage. But on the first day at her new school her classmates taunt her because of her color and their assumption that she is a newly arrived Ethiopian immigrant—so she claims to be American. There are further bullying incidents, and Meskerem is miserable, confused, and angry. She withdraws from her parents, but her grandmother gives her a better understanding of the danger-filled struggles of Ethiopian Jews to reach asylum in Israel, with her parents filling in additional details. When she shares this information in a school project, there’s a hopeful, if facile, outcome. Despite these expository opportunities, this Israeli import lacks context for North American readers unfamiliar with Operation Solomon and the concept of making aliyah, and there is no backmatter supplement. Meskerem narrates her own story, never exceeding her child’s understanding of events. While Shmuel provides a hopeful vision of acceptance and friendship, the author bio reveals that the story is based in part on the experiences of her own biracial (Ethiopian/Israeli) children. Katz’s softly drawn illustrations add depth and detail.

Readers will respond to this portrait of a proud, loving family in a difficult situation.

(Fiction. 9-12)