Siblings and others

Angela Kiverstein's round up of this month's children's books


Molly Peskin-Suzo is “the kind of Jew that eats bacon” (with butter!); when not in school, she works in a gift shop with a Yiddish name and she revels in the “secret invisible high-five” of meeting a fellow Jew. The Up Side of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli (Penguin, £7.99) is full of such high-fives in a tale of sibling rivalry and teenage love. Unlike her super-confident sister, Molly has never had a boyfriend; then she meets two possibles within 24 hours. Meanwhile, Molly’s moms (this is a mixed-heritage, two-mom, three-kid family) are planning their wedding, with the help of her adorably tactless Jewish grandmother. Age 15 up.

Since her mother died, Alena, in Catherine Barter’s Troublemakers (Andersen, £7.99) has been raised by her brother, Danny, and Nick, his fair-trade-coffee-shop-owning boyfriend. Their corner of east London (complete with far-from-stereotypical Jewish characters) is suffering a wave of supermarket bombings but Alena’s home life is shaken by other forces — political disagreement between Danny and Nick and discoveries from Alena’s past, sparked by an old photo of her mum at Greenham Common. Age 14 up.

Social activism and feisty grandmas crop up again in Tender Earth by Sita Bramachari (Macmillan, £6.99). Laila Levenson (from a British-Jewish-Indian family) is starting secondary school but her former best friend Kezia, a fiercely independent wheelchair user, is busy preparing for her batmitzvah, so Laila teams up with Pari, a refugee from Iraq. The life of 21st-century refugees is set against that of Kezia’s grandparents, who arrived on the Kindertransport. Laila learns her Nana was a keen campaigner for social justice and is inspired to follow her example and that of her cousin who is making a barefoot odyssey for charity. And we even get the text of Kezia’s dvar Torah about “community”. Age 11 up; would make a good batmitzvah present.

The Kindertransport is also in the background of Letters from the Lighthouse by Emma Carroll (Faber & Faber, £6.99). Olive and Cliff are evacuated to Devon, where they meet pushy Esther from Vienna, one of the Kinder. Sukie, big sister to Olive and Cliff, has disappeared and Olive has found a coded note, linking the mystery to Devon. Age nine to 12.

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