Shira and Esther’s Double Dream Debut

Chronicle. Oct. 2023. 332p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781797215655.
Gr 5-8–Shira Epstein, the daughter of a rabbi, wants to perform on stage instead of practicing readings for her Bat Mitzvah. Esther Rosenbaum, the daughter of an actress, wants to study the Torah. Both live in the small town of Idylldale, and both are being raised by single parents who see a future for their daughters more in line with their own chosen professions. So, Esther can only dream of life in the synagogue, while Shira plots to enter a local talent contest behind the rabbi’s back. One day, the girls meet each other for the first time in a chance encounter reminiscent of the movie The Parent Trap. Amazed and delighted by their close physical resemblance and identical birthdays, Shira and Esther share their frustration that neither of their parents support their dreams. The girls conspire to switch places long enough for Esther to celebrate Shira’s Bat Mitzvah and Shira to enter the talent competition. While they initially enjoy their new lives, the girls discover that the swap comes with a bevy of challenges they hadn’t considered. Nevertheless, everything works out and readers are left with a satisfying conclusion that ties up all the loose ends. The plot moves along at a good pace while keeping readers in suspense over why the girls have been strangers until they met. In addition to Shira and Esther, the story has many other funny and engaging support characters, including the narrator who explains Yiddish words and Jewish traditions. A glossary appears in is appended at the end.
VERDICT Libraries looking to diversify their fiction collections for middle grade students will want to consider this very enjoyable book. A great choce for middle schoolers.

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