Pros:Insight into the immigrant experience, plucky heroine, nice details
The Bottom Line: My daughter really enjoyed reading about Rebecca's life in 1914 because it was very similar to how her great-grandparents lived.
My oldest daughter is five years old. She has always been a precocious reader, but I have had difficulty finding things that she wants to read. She loves Elephant and Piggie books, but they are not much of a challenge. She claims to be afraid of Junie B. Jones, and she has shown no interest in Ramona. We do have a nice collection of American Girl books that I have collected in the past couple of years. My daughter and I have also started to collect the dolls, so I thought that it would be a good time to start reading through the books.
My daughter chose to read Meet Rebecca. She received the Rebecca doll for her birthday at the end of April, and she shares two special connections with Rebecca. First, her name is also Rebecca. Second, her great-grandparents were Russian Jewish immigrants in New York at the same time that the American Girl Rebecca stories take place!
As the story begins, we are introduced to Rebecca Rubin. She is a nine year old girl, and she lives in New York City in 1914. Her family came from Russia, where they were discriminated against because they were Jewish. From what I have inferred from the story, Rebecca’s parents emigrated before their children were born, and Rebecca’s father has made a nice life for his wife and five children. He now owns a shoe store. There is some controversy here because Papa keeps his shoe store open during the Sabbath. Grandpa disapproves of this, but Papa needs to keep the store open because so many people shop on Saturdays.
There is even more Americanization to be had; we are soon introduced to Mama’s cousin Moyshe, who has changed his name to Max. Max wants to be an actor, and has an upcoming audition with a motion picture studio.
Rebecca wants nothing more than to light the Sabbath candles and go see a motion picture, but she has been told that she is too young to do either.
At dinner, Papa reads a letter from his brother Jacob. Things are dire in Russia, and they desperately need to come to America. Unfortunately, the Rubins don’t have enough money to send to their Russian relatives. Tickets for the boat are $30 apiece, and then Jacob needs to have $25 in order to enter the country. The Rubins need almost $200 in order to help, and Papa is at a loss.
Rebecca is torn between wanting to save money to buy her own candlesticks and to save money to help with the tickets for her Russian cousins. Towards the beginning of the book, the Rubins recount the tale of Clever Karina, a folktale about a young girl who solves the Tsar’s riddle. Incidentally, this folktale is also known as Clever Katya. Rebecca is compared to Clever Karina because of her resourcefulness. Rebecca must think of a clever plan to raise enough money to help her family.
I found Rebecca to be an engaging and resourceful heroine. She is a middle child, and she yearns to be grown up like her older sisters, who are twins. Not only is Rebecca a middle child, but she is the only girl, aside from the twins. Rebecca often feels left out because the twins have each other for companionship, and her brothers have each other. Rebecca is looking for her place in the world, and she wants to make a difference. I think this is something that is very relatable, and it is presented very well.
Another thing that I liked about the book is that is shows how resourcefulness can lead to good things. Not only do we see this demonstrated in Rebecca’s actions, but also in those of her father. During the course of the book, we learn that Mr. Rubin used to work in a shoe factory when he first came to America, but he has worked his way up to owning his own shoe store. He has not forgotten the struggles of more recent immigrants; in a touching scene, he takes a young boy’s threadbare shoes to the back to “fix them”. When he returns, he clearly has a new pair of shoes. When Rebecca asks him about this, Mr. Rubin talks about the importance of doing mitzvahs, good deeds that help other people.
I would recommend Meet Rebecca. This book is relatively short. My daughter and I were able to read it in an afternoon. She read some of the paragraphs, but was more interested in listening than reading. The story held her attention, and I’m very pleased with this because I’ve had trouble finding books for her lately. The story held my attention as well; at some point, my daughter fell asleep, but I continued reading because I wanted to find out how Rebecca was going to raise the money!
I am looking forward to reading the rest of the books in the Rebecca series, as well as the other American Girl books. My daughter and I have all summer to read these books, and I am sure that we will learn more lessons from the American Girls.
Read all 2 Reviews
Write a Review