In the book, “Sliding Into the New Year,” we gain a wonderful new author of children’s Jewish literature in Dori Weinstein.  She brings a modern, human tone to a story that is both timely and engaging.

The story’s narrator, Ellie Silver, (aka YaYa) speaks in the authentic voice of an almost eleven-year-old Jewish girl.  Ellie introduces us to her twin Joel (YoYo), her older brother Jeremy (who is nearing his Bar Mitzvah), and her parents.  Ellie lives a life that will feel familiar to most American Jewish children—she goes to public school, but also attends a supplemental Hebrew school on some afternoons.

The central conflict of the book is a common one for most Jewish children—how to manage interacting with the secular American world in light of Jewish holidays.  Ellie is invited to join her best friend Megan at the new indoor water park.  Only one problem—the invitation is for one of the two days of Rosh Hashanah.  Ellie really wants to go, but can’t quite figure out how she can convince her family that she should be able to miss synagogue services to join her friend.

In the process of her decision-making, Ellie learns more about the holiday and about how she might interact with the holiday and the services.  She learns about the concept of t’shuvah or “turning around” one’s life.  As she tries to explore ways to cope with her disappointment about not joining Megan this time, Ellie comes to realize just how meaningful her family and the holidays are to her.  She comes to appreciate how she has begun to “turn around” some of her own bad habits and how these changes are helping her feel better about life.

I really enjoyed this book for a number of reasons.  First, on a personal note, the author was one of my older son’s teachers at school a number of years ago, and it is wonderful to see how she is doing now.  But even more importantly, she is filling a huge gap in the world of Jewish children’s literature.  Many books geared toward Jewish children focus purely on the meaning of the holidays or on tell stories with didactic preachiness.  Ms. Weinstein instead creates a nuanced child, who has believable conflicts and who resolves them in believable ways.  And she does so within the context of a fun and entertaining story as well.  I am also pleased to see that this book is intended to be the first of a series about this family.

I highly recommend this book, especially for Jewish libraries, but also for other school libraries as well.  Most readers will empathize with a narrator who is trying to resolve a familiar personal dilemma.

Disclaimer:  An advance copy of this book was donated to my school library by the publisher, Sheyna Galyan of Yaldah Books, who also happens to be a parent of students in the school.