National Jewish Books Award Winner – ON BLACKBERRY HILL by Rachel Mann examines the mother-daughter connection in a unique way.ย 

Title: ON BLACKBERRY HILL 

Author: RACHEL MANN 

Genre: YOUNG ADULT FICTION, JEWISH FICTION, WOMEN’S FICTION, INDIE FICTION

Length: 194 PAGES

Publisher: SELF-PUBLISHED

Release Date: 2016

ISBN: 9781535262910

Rating: 4 OUT OF 5 STARS ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ

Awards Won: National Jewish Book Award Winner      


 

Reena has no desire to spend her last summer before high school at her cousin’s Jewish residential summer camp far away from her life in the city. She may be Jewish, but living with her non-practicing father means that she does not feel a deep devotion to her dead mother’s faith.

When her father announces that he is leaving the city for the entire summer, Reena’s fate is sealed. Whether she likes it or not, and she really does NOT, she will be living at the camp in Upstate New York until her father returns. Reena will have her cousin with her at camp, but they barely tolerate each other, so that won’t make much difference.

Twenty years earlier, her mother had attended that same camp, but her mother died when Reena was a baby, so it’s not as if Reena knows anything about Naomi’s time at camp.

This book is written in two different time periods and from two different perspectives. It tells not only the tale of Reena’s time at camp, but also the story of her mother, Naomi’s time at that same camp approximately twenty years earlier.

How do the two stories intertwine? You will need to read this book to find out, and you will not be disappointed.

Rachel Mann has penned a moving story that goes beyond the Jewish faith. Yes, the characters are Jewish, but that is only a small part of who they are. This book won the National Jewish Book Award, but again, the “Jewish” part of that award is only a small part. Rachel Mann won the award on the merit of the story.

I love how Rachel Mann seemlessly transitions between Naomi’s past and Reena’s present. The fact that Naomi died when Reena was just a baby means that Reena knows almost nothing about her mother. Sure, her father mentions her from time to time, but he really doesn’t tell her much and Reena is desperate to find some way to connect with the mother she never knew. Camp Tova just might be that place.

Author Rachel Mann has a bright future ahead. She has a gift for getting to the heart of the story and to create characters with depth.

This multi-generational story depicts how the choices we make can effect the future of not just ourselves, but of our family and friends as well. 

I rate ON BLACKBERRY HILL as 4 out of 5 Stars ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: 


Rachel Mann is the author of the young adult novel, ON BLACKBERRY HILL, winner of the 2016 National Jewish Book Award for Young Adult Literature, and the play CLASS MOTHER, nominated for best play at the Winterfest Theater Festival 2016. Her theatrical work has been seen at Forward Theater Company in Madison, WI, Ensemble Studio Theatre’s First Brew, Naked Angels Tuesdays at 9, The PlayGround Experiment, and InViolet Theater in NYC. Her writing has been published and performed at The Forward, Kveller, Liars’ League NYC, Manhattan Lit Crawl, and The Fish Anthology (UK). She graduated from the Novel Studio course at City University London, as well as from Columbia (BA) and NYU (MA). She lives in NYC with her husband and three daughters.

To learn even more about the talented Rachel Mann, visit the following links:

OFFICIAL WEBSITE       

GOODREADS   

TWITTER        

FACEBOOK    

INSTAGRAM       

AMAZON     

JEWISH BOOK COUNCIL    

A DIFFERENT POND by Phi Bao is one of the most meaningful children’s books I have ever read. 5 Stars ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸย 

Title: A DIFFERENT POND     

Author: BAO PHI  

Illustrator: THI BUI     

Genre: FICTION, CHILDREN’S FICTION, IMMIGRANT FICTION, MULTICULTURAL FICTION    

Length: 32 PAGES

Publisher: CAPSTONE   

Type of Book: JACKETED PAPER-OVER-BOARD   

Ages: 4 TO 8

Received From: NETGALLEY     

Release Date: AUGUST 2017 

ISBN: 978-1-62370-803-0  

Price: $15.95 U.S. / $19.95 CAN 

Rating: 5 OUT OF 5 STARS ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ    

FROM THE BACK COVER:

An unforgettable story about a simple event – a long-ago fishing trip. A young boy wakes early, hours before his fatherโ€™s long workday begins, to fish on the shores of a small pond in Minneapolis.

Unlike many anglers, the boy and his father fish for food, not recreation. A successful catch means a fed family. Between hope-filled casts, the boy’s father tells him about a different pond in their homeland of Vietnam. On these early mornings, the young boy begins the hard work of self discovery. 

MY REVIEW: 

Not only is this book beautifully written and illustrated, but the story within will enchant children while simultaneously evoking a sense of nostalgia in the child’s parents.

Despite the fact that the characters in this gorgeous children’s book are Vietnamese, every child will be able to relate to the main character’s delight in spending time with his father and in the disappointment when he is left behind while his parents go off to work. 

Readers will notice that the father and son are fishing for food, rather than fishing for fun. When they have caught enough fish: 

Dad smiles, his teeth broken and white in the dark, because we have a few fish and he knows we will eat tonight.” 

This line is an opportunity for parents to talk to their children about the immigrant experience and through this discussion, they can help to foster equality and to help eliminate racism in our society. 

Image obtained from http://weneeddiversebooks.org/


It seems trite to say that “Children are our future,” but as clichรฉ as it sounds, it is true.

Books such as this one are important for many reasons. It is important for children of visible minorities to be able to find and read books that show people who look just like them, and that they can relate to. It is equally important that all children are exposed to multicultural books since we live in a multicultural society. 

The illustrations in this book are a cross between a graphic novel and a typical childrenโ€™s book. This unique illustrative style is the PERFECT accompaniment to the story.  

I rate this book as 5 out of 5 Stars ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ๐ŸŒŸ and suggest that all parents, teachers and librarians put this book on their “To Be Purchased list” or that they go ahead and pre-order a copy today. I predict this book will win many awards upon its release. 

*I received a free copy of this book from Netgalley

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: 

BAO PHI was born in Vietnam and raised in the Phillips neighborhood of South Minneapolis.

He is an author, a poet, a community organizer, and a father.

To learn more about this author visit the following links:

OFFICIAL WEBSITE     

GOODREADS      

FACEBOOK        

AMAZON    

ABOUT THE ILLUSTRATOR:  

THI BUI was born in Vietnam and grew up in California and New York. Now all these places are a part of her.

She draws, writes, and teaches. She recently completed her first graphic novel, THE BEST WE COULD DO (Abrams, 2017), which is about her mother and father.

To learn more about this author/illustrator, visit the following links:

OFFICIAL WEBSITE    

TUMBLR      

GOODREADS     

INSTAGRAM     

TWITTER    

THE NIB   

GOOGLE BOOKS