Judy Kaplan loves to ask all kinds of questions.
Scattered on the pages as if they are written notes, many of her questions are profound and posed to her rabbi father concerning beliefs and traditions of Judaism, even the existence of God. She is particularly disturbed that during services in the synagogue, women sit separately from men, no women read from the Torah, and only boys become bar mitzvah when they turn 13. It is the 1920s, and women in the United States have both recently won the right to vote and are working at jobs once held only by men. Women are even driving cars. Judy is completely surprised when her father announces that there will be changes in his synagogue. With fears of failure and ridicule, and with only one day to study and practice, 12-year-old Judy will become bat mitzvah. She will read a portion of the Torah and sing the blessings at the Saturday morning services. She carries it off beautifully and earns the approval of the whole congregation. Basing her story on true events and with personal knowledge of the Kaplan family, Sasso tells the tale in straightforward, direct syntax, with a hint of admiration. Lucas’ strongly hued illustrations enhance the text and provide carefully delineated images of time, place, and Jewish traditions. Readers who are not familiar with these traditions might need some additional explanations. Judy, her family, and the congregation are all depicted with pale skin.
Judy is a force for change. Lovely.(author’s note, biographical note) (Picture book/religion. 6-10)