OyMG

Back to Story Central
Back to Parent Guides

OyMG book coverWhat the Book is About:

Ellie Taylor’s dream is to attend the prestigious Benedict’s Conservatory of Arts and Academics and join the best speech team in the country. Benedict’s is a private school that is expensive, competitive, and Christian, but Ellie has a plan. She enrolls in the school’s summer camp, hoping to earn herself a place and a full scholarship by winning the final competition. Ellie soon discovers, however, that although her religion shouldn’t matter, it does to Mrs. Doris Yeats, the benefactor sponsoring the scholarship. Ellie ultimately decides that her Jewish identity is something to be proud of, no matter what.

Jewish Content and Values

  • Jewish identity is a major theme in this book. Ellie has been brought up in a Jewish home, and has a close relationship with her zeydeh (grandpa). However, while trying to get the scholarship, Ellie finds herself hiding her Jewish star necklace, calling herself Christian on her application, and even going to church to impress Mrs. Yeats. But when her beloved Zeydeh is hospitalized, and Mrs. Yeats reveals the depths of her anti-Jewish beliefs, Ellie embraces her Jewish identity and users her oratory prowess to speak out against prejudice.
  • Teshuvah (repentance): In her attempt to be Mrs. Yeat's vision of the perfect Benedict scholarship winner, Ellie hides her Jewish identity and does not speak out against blatant anti-Semitism. Later, Ellie regrets her actions and returns to who she really is: a strong and courageous Jewish girl who takes a stand for what is right.
  • Chutzpah (Yiddish for "audacity" or "nerve"): It takes nerve to speak your mind -- especially when speaking your mind may ruin your chance for a school scholarship! Ellie uses her chutzpah to try to change Mrs. Yeats anti-Semitic ideas.
  • Yiddish culture and Jewish experiences are woven throughout the book: Ellie's family celebrates Shabbat and she had a bat mitzvah; Zeydeh enters his matzo ball soup in the Har Zion cooking contest and peppers his sentences with colorful Yiddish phrases. 

Positive Role Models

  • Ellie grows from the girl who is willing to do anything to get the Benedict scholarship to the girl who understands that some things come at too great a price. Ellie rejects Doris Yeat's vision of who she should be in an inspiring and dramatic way.
  • Zeydeh's connection to Judaism and Jewish history is an inspiration for Ellie and helps her to reclaim her own Jewish identity. Zeydeh is also able to admit when he is wrong, and he apologizes when he has gone to far.

Content Advisory

This book has no physical violence; however, a number of sensitive topics are broached:
  • Preteen romance alert: Ellie develops a big crush on Devon Yeats. She describes him as "intensely hot"; she "sizzles" when they touch; her friend Megan declares, "He's hot for you"; and Ellie and Devon kiss.
  • Intermarriage and interdating: Ellie's mom is Jewish and her dad was raised Lutheran. Ellie dates Devon Yeats, who is Christian.
  • Anti-Semitism: Doris Yeats is an unapologetic anti-Semitic character. There is context for Doris's behavior: When Doris was young, she was in love with a Jewish boy whose parents rejected her because she was not Jewish. Doris continues to judge all Jews negatively because of her painful experience.

Topics To Discuss

  • At first Ellie compromises in small ways, like hiding her Jewish star necklace when she goes to talk to Doris Yeats. But soon, half-truths become lies and life becomes even more complicated! Have you ever felt like you had to hide something about yourself to make someone like you? How did that make you feel?

More For You

 Jewish Debate: Jews have been arguing for thousands of years! The best example of Jewish debate is the Talmud, the written record of Judaism's oral tradition. It contains laws, stories, commentary, and many differences of opinions between rabbis living in different time periods. Although it was codified around 500 CE, Jews all over the world still debate the Talmud and its commentaries today.