Looking for Me...in This Great Big Family

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Looking For Me book coverWhat the Book is About:

This touching book written in simple verse is based on the real life experiences of the author's mother, Edith, who grew up in a large family in Baltimore during the Great Depression. Edith's "voice" is beautifully authentic and the simple poems poignantly describe her life through good and bad times.

Jewish Content and Values

  • Jewish objects such as mezuzot (the plural of mezuzah: a piece of parchment inscribed with verses from the biblical Book of Deuteronomy that is affixed to a doorframe) and yarmulkes (circular caps traditionally worn by Jewish men) are a part of Edith’s family’s way of life. (Edith’s family also celebrates Christmas. - As Edith explains, “It’s not really ours, but we’re borrowing it because here in America we can celebrate anything we want.”)
  • When Edith’s little brother, Melvin, dies, the family struggles to understand why bad things sometimes happen to good people, which has been a philosophical question Jewish thinkers have wondered about for centuries.
  • Edith's family keeps kosher, meaning they eat foods that conform to Jewish dietary laws, and several Jewish "style" foods, such as knishes and gefilte fish, are mentioned.
  • Jewish holidays such as Rosh Hashanah, Passover, and Shabbat are celebrated.

Positive Role Models

  • Edith deals with hardships and good times in the same straightforward manner. She works hard at her father's diner and excels at school, despite her exhaustion. She takes good care of her siblings and follows her dream to become the first female in her family to go to college.
  • Mrs. Connelly is Edith's teacher. She recognizes Edith's potential and urges her to consider going to college.
  • Bubby Etta is Edith's grandmother. Bubby Etta made the hard choice of initially leaving her infant daughter behind when she immigrated from Russia to America. She is a skilled midwife and a very good listener. When Edith's father says they cannot afford to send Edith to college, Bubby Etta immediately volunteers to help her go.

Content Advisory:

This book has almost no physical violence; however, the following could be emotionally difficult:
  • Edith's father sometimes spanks his children.
  • A boy taunts Edith for being Jewish and says she killed Jesus. (Edith responds, "I couldn't have killed Jesus, because I wasn't even born then, but my brothers are going to kill you if you don't leave me alone!")
  • A girl believes Edith has horns because she is Jewish.
  • Melvin, Edith's beloved younger brother, dies suddenly of bronchitis leaving the family brokenhearted.

Topics to Discuss

This book is written in verse. Why do you think the author chose to write her family's stories as poems? Do you think the book would have worked had it been written in prose?
 
Miss Connelly is the first person to tell Edith that she is smart. Can you think of a time that someone told you something that changed how you saw yourself?

More for You

Jews and horns: The Torah describes Moses coming down Mt. Sinai with his face “shining” from his meeting with God (Exodus 34:29). The Vulgate (Latin translation of the Bible from the late fourth century) erroneously translates the Hebrew word “karan” (to shine forth) as “keren” (horn). Later, artists (the most notable being Michelangelo) depicted Moses with horns, which contributed to the anti-Semitic idea that Jews have horns.