The Length of a String by Elissa Brent Weissman

The Length of a String

Elissa Brent Weissman, Author

Dial Books for Young Readers, Fiction, May 1, 2018

Suitable for Ages: 10-14

Themes: Adoption, Identity, Family relationships, Jews, African Americans, Holocaust

Synopsis:

Imani is adopted by a Jewish family. Now that she’s turning 13, she knows exactly what she wants as her big bat mitzvah gift: to find her birth parents. She loves her family and her Jewish community in Baltimore, but she has always wondered where she came from, especially since she’s black and almost everyone she knows is white.

When her mom’s grandmother–Imani’s great-grandma Anna–passes away, Imani discovers an old journal among her books. It’s Anna’s diary from 1941, the year she was twelve and fled Nazi-occupied Luxembourg alone, sent by her parents to seek refuge in Brooklyn, New York. Imani keeps the diary a secret for a while, only sharing it with her best friend, Madeline. Anna’s diary chronicles her escape from Holocaust-era Europe and her journey to America and her new life with a Jewish adoptive family. She continues to write to her sister Belle about the tall New York sky scrapers, shopping in supermarkets, eating Chinese food, modeling fur coats, and playing Chinese checkers, until news about her family stops. She fears the worst and puts down her pen.

Imani decides to make Anna’s story her bat mitzvah research project. She uncovers some important information about the war and Luxembourg. As Imani reads Anna’s diary, she begins to see her own family and her place in it in a new way.

Why I like this book:

The author skillfully weaves two stories, one from the present and another from the past, using characters that you will feel like you know intimately. This is a very different holocaust story because it focuses on the identity of Jewish and African-American girls (70 years a part) and their search for self, something that readers will find relevant. The setting, the unforgettable characters, and the plot create an engaging reading experience. The ending is unexpected and very satisfying.

You learn about Anna Kirsch and the painful decision her family makes in deciding which of their seven children to smuggle to America as the Nazi’s begin to occupy Luxembourg.  Anna is selected and separated from her identical twin sister, Belle, the other half of her heart. On the ship she begins to write Belle daily letters daily chronicling her journey so that she keeps their connection alive. Anna lives with  loving strangers, Hannah and Max, a Jewish family who open their hearts and home to her. Anna is essentially adopted, like Imani. She continues to write to Belle about her adventures until news about her family stops.

My children are adopted, each responding differently like Imani and her adopted El Salvadoran brother. Like Imani, my daughter had so many questions about her past. What were her ethnic roots? Who did she look like? Why was she adopted? Like Imani’s family, we ran a genetic DNA test for our daughter so she had a sense of her heritage. This eventually led to her finding two biological sisters this past year.  Now she has answers and it has brought her peace as an adult. We need more MG and YA books for adopted children who are trying to figure out who they are and need to see themselves in stories.

Elissa Brent Weismann’s novel is a captivating story that is a departure from her humorous Nerd Camp series. Her website includes teacher resources and curriculum for all of her books.

Greg Pattridge is the host for Marvelous Middle Grade Monday posts on his wonderful Always in the Middle website. Check out the link to see all of the wonderful reviews by KidLit bloggers and authors.

About Patricia Tiltonhttps://childrensbooksheal.wordpress.comI want "Children's Books Heal" to be a resource for parents, grandparents, teachers and school counselors. My goal is to share books on a wide range of topics that have a healing impact on children who are facing challenges in their lives. If you are looking for good books on grief, autism, visual and hearing impairments, special needs, diversity, bullying, military families and social justice issues, you've come to the right place. I also share books that encourage art, imagination and creativity. I am always searching for those special gems to share with you. If you have a suggestion, please let me know.

15 thoughts on “The Length of a String by Elissa Brent Weissman

  1. What a fascinating book you’ve reviewed today! I don’t read all that much MG, but I think this will be an exception. Thanks for an excellent pick & review!

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  2. Sounds like a great story—both in the book and your own. I enjoy novels that tell the story of two generations and yes adoption is a rarely seen topic in MG books. Thanks for your sparkling review.

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    • You were the one who reviewed this book — I couldn’t remember. I just loved your review about the book and got a copy. As an adoptive parent of two, it really grabbed my attention. Brought many memories.

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  3. This book seems to cover a number of important subjects – adoption, separation, and the Holocaust. I know a number of adopted individuals who have sought out their birth parents.

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    • It does cover a number of important topics. I haven’t read many MG books with adopted characters — and there are two different kinds of adoption that bring this story together. My daughter has met both her half-sisters and focuses on those relationships. Her birth mother passed away recently.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I remember also reading about this book on Andrea Mack’s blog, and it sounds wonderful! Imani and Anna’s stories sound realistic and touching. Thanks so much for the review!

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  5. Wow. This sounds amazing. My husband was adopted, so I understand the angst that comes with that. I will have to check this one out. And, yes, I think we need more books on this topic.

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    • This adoption story is very unique and I believe you’d like it! I agree, we do need more books on the topic. Our daughter found her birth family, but our son from India has no interest.

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  6. Pingback: 39 Haunting Holocaust Books for Kids – PragmaticMom

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