In Liss-Levinson’s (Cookie the Seder Cat, 2011, etc.) fine children’s book, a girl and her family are forced to flee their home to escape Hurricane Katrina.
Gertie, a 9-year-old Jewish girl growing up in New Orleans, loves to eat cookies and sponge cake with her brother Jonah at parties at the synagogue; on Wednesdays, she visits her Grandma Rose at a nursing home and calls out numbers for the bingo game. But when Katrina heads toward the city, Gertie and her family must evacuate. Gertie’s mother instructs her to pack up enough clothes, books and toys for a two-day stay at her aunt’s house in Memphis, Tenn., until the storm passes. Once there, Gertie feels safe but worries about her grandmother, her house, her friends and her father—a dedicated doctor who stays behind to help. Due to the overwhelming disaster, the two-day stay stretches into weeks, and Gertie finds herself having to attend a new Jewish school and make new friends. Much of the book’s success lies in Gertie’s memorable first-person voice. As Gertie relates her struggle to adapt to her new life—and then to return to her old, but substantially altered one—the reader witnesses a character’s slow, beautiful evolution. Gertie learns to compromise, to feel gratitude for the little things and to help those less fortunate than she is. The author manages to capture Gertie’s endearing naïveté as well as her adeptness in making connections and thoughtful choices. Wonderful stories abound; Gertie questions why God didn’t uphold his promise to Noah never to bring another ruinous flood to Earth and, in another scene, holds a burial for her broken Barbie doll in the backyard. When Gertie attempts to surprise her family by concocting a noodle-pudding recipe for Rosh Hashana (with leftover spaghetti and hard-boiled eggs), her brother complains, and she comments, “Jonah, you don’t know any better, because you are only a five year old chef. And I am almost ten. So I have better taste than you. Now and forever. So there. And Happy New Year to you too.” The author includes a helpful glossary of pertinent Jewish terminology and a list of addresses for donating books to organizations throughout the world.
An excellent children’s novel featuring a captivating, charming young girl.