The Trouble with Good Ideas

Roaring Brook. Jan. 2021. 288p. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781250245106.
Gr 4-6–Leah loves her great-grandfather Zaide. She loves going to his unique house for family gatherings on Saturdays, and she loves his stories. He once told her about how to build a golem—a creature from Jewish mythology molded from clay with the purpose of protecting the family from the Nazis in Poland. As Zaide begins to decline mentally, Leah’s parents start talking about sending him to an assisted living facility. Leah is not a fan of this change and decides to build a golem to help Zaide so he can stay in his home. Everything seems to be going to plan until the golem becomes more demanding, seemingly neglecting its purpose of helping and protecting Zaide. There’s a crucial part of the golem myth Zaide failed to mention—how to handle a golem that has turned on its creator. This is a well-written, easy-to-follow middle grade novel with relatable characters. Leah suffers from insecurities about herself and her place in the world that will resonate with many tweens. There is a strong focus on familial relationships and connections, as well as friendship both within and outside the family. While the book does a wonderful job centering Jewish customs, history, and mythology, Leah repeatedly comments on how much she hates her big nose. This sort of stereotyping combined with such a strong focus on the way a person “should” look can be harmful in literature for young readers.
VERDICT An additional purchase for larger libraries.

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