Star of Luis
by Marc Talbert
Clarion Books, $15
A boy entering his teen years discovers that he is Jewish, in a time when this is neither safe nor popular. He finds out his family’s biggest secret when his mother takes him back from Los Angeles to her home in Las Manos, New Mexico, where “the ground itself looked like a rotting carcass, with wounds where the sunset’s reddish light shone.”
In Los Angeles, he had gone to church and was brought up as a Christian. In New Mexico he meets his dying grandfather, his grandmother, his uncles and aunts. Although he noticed that there were no crosses in his house like there were in his friends’ houses, he never suspected he could be Jewish. His uncle Solomon, his mother’s brother, a minister, breaks the news to him. This was a hard bite for Luis to swallow; he did not want to be a Jew. How could a Mexican be a Jew? He used to make fun of Jews and insult them. However, as time goes on and he moves back to Los Angeles, he starts to accept his Jewish heritage. He befriends Jewish boys. He learns more about Jewish culture.
I enjoyed this book very much. Talbert’s use of Spanish (with a glossary) gives the story a multicultural setting and makes the dialogue realistic. I recommend it for children in 5th or 6th grade.
Talya Lieberman is a freshman at Townsend Harris High School in New York.