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TakedownWhat the Book is About:

Lev is determined to beat his rival on the wrestling team and make it to the state championships, while Mikayla wants to follow in the footsteps of her wrestling champ father and older brothers. When she joins the Gladiators and becomes Lev’s training partner, he’s not happy to be working with a girl, and some of the other boys don’t want Mickey on the team at all. Eventually Lev comes to respect her skill and determination to succeed in a male-dominated sport and he begins to see wrestling in a different light. Told in alternating chapters through the eyes of Lev and Mickey, Takedown introduces kids to a less common sport, but it’s also about friendship, responsibility, discrimination and the price of winning at all costs.

Jewish Content and Values

  • Lev’s father is Israeli and Lev calls him Abba (Hebrew for Dad). Lev has been to Israel twice to visit his Saba and Safta (grandparents).
  • Lev’s family celebrates Hanukkah and Passover.
  • Lev’s family used to have Shabbat (sabbath) dinner until wrestling got in the way, and Lev misses their Friday night dinners and making challah with his sister and father. Later in the book Lev decides he wants to make Shabbat a priority.
  • Wrestling is not just the subject of this book; it is linked thematically to Lev and Mickey’s struggles to resolve conflicts within themselves and with siblings, to grow as a result of the experience, and to find their place in their community. In writing Takedown, the author was inspired by the Biblical story of Jacob wrestling with the angel (Genesis 32:25).

Positive Role Models

  • Lev is initially against wrestling against a girl, but he then realizes how unfair it is that Mikayla is experiencing discrimination and works to change the attitudes of his teammates and their fans. When he sees his idol playing dirty and accidentally hurts a friend during practice, he misses the fun and good sportsmanship of the less competitive stages of the sport.
  • Mickey idolizes her older brothers and her father, all wrestling champions, and she wants to follow in their footsteps. She shows grit and determination in joining the more competitive all-boy team and refuses to quit even when her teammates won’t accept her and male opponents refuse to wrestle against her. When her brother deliberately hurts another boy, she does the right thing despite the potential consequences to the family’s relationships.

Content Advisory

Wrestling is a very physical and occasionally violent sport. Mickey's brother and Lev's idol, Evan, has anger management problems and he attacks a boy at a match, which Lev, in particular, finds upsetting.

Talk it Over

When Mickey was assigned as Lev’s training partner, he was embarrassed to partner with a girl but he comes to realize that any good wrestler should have a right to be on the team and becomes very supportive of her. Have you ever been put in a situation you resented but eventually realized it was a good learning experience for you?

More For You

Baseball may lay claim as the sport most loved by Jews, but we have a history with wrestling too, and it goes back to the Bible. In the book of Genesis (Bereshit), Jacob wrestles with God, after which he earns the name Israel. In contemporary sports, William Goldberg is the only Jewish champion of World Championship Wrestling. Another successful professional wrestler, Barry Horowitz, wrestled with a Star of David on his trunks and entered the ring to Hava Nagila, while Colt Cabana paid for his first wrestling training with his bar mitzvah money.

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