Editorial Review

AJL Newsletter

Cover: Hannah's Way

“Hannah’s Way is an American Jewish story that has not been told in picture books before. The time is the 1920s and the place is Northeastern Minnesota, a rural iron mining area called the Iron Range. After her father loses his job in Minneapolis, Hannah’s family moves to a small town so that he can join Uncle Max, working at his general store. It was common for Jews to run dry goods stores in small town America. Hannah finds herself the only Jewish girl in her class at her new school, and she feels alone and friendless. When her teacher announces that the fall picnic will be on Saturday, and asks who needs a ride, Hannah is crestfallen. She had wanted to go to the picnic, but she knows that her family does not work or drive on the Sabbath. At home, she asks her parents’ permission, and they confirm that she may not ride to the picnic. How Hannah resolves this makes an encouraging story.

Illustrator Adam Gustavson’s realistic and convincing double page paintings suggest the dark and difficult aspect of life for Hannah’s family in America’s hinterlands. Hannah’s parents appear strict and forbidding. Browns and grays are the dominant shades inside Hannah’s home, and there is a somewhat threatening atmosphere. These illustrations open questions about how difficult life may have been for isolated Jewish families in these towns. How did they connect to the communities they joined? How did they maintain Jewish laws and customs? Not, this story tells us, by being permissive parents. The author’s note at the back of the book credits the inspiration for this story to a 1996 exhibit at the Minnesota History Center called ‘Unpacking on the Prairie: Jewish Women in the Upper Midwest.’ This reviewer found the website for this exhibit to be a rich source of fascinating photographs: http://www. jhsum.org/jewishwomenexhibit . The book, Hannah’s Way, and this website would be excellent resources for children to learn about this aspect of the American Jewish experience. Kar-Ben Publishing, in its present location in Minneapolis, has issued an authentic Minnesotan Jewish story, in a high quality picture book. Hannah’s Way is enthusiastically recommended for all Jewish and public library children’s collections, and especially for all elementary school libraries.” —Association of Jewish Libraries

Products Reviewed

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Hannah's Way
  • Available in limited formats
  • Soon! Fall 2024
  • New! Spring 2024
  • New! Fall 2023

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