The Life and Opinions of Amy Finawitz

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The Life and Opinions of Amy Finawitz book coverWhat the Book is About:

This fast-paced, contemporary book is written as a series of funny and sarcastic emails from eighth-grader Amy Finawitz to her best friend, Callie. Callie has left New York City to spend the year in Kansas and Amy keeps her updated on her life. Things get exciting when Amy begins researching the life of Jewish immigrant Anna Slonovich with the help of Miss Sophia (Amy's elderly neighbor), Beryl (Miss Sophia's Orthodox Jewish nephew), and John (Amy's school crush).

Jewish Content and Values

  • People are more than the sum of their stereotypes! This book illustrates the Hebrew phrase from Pirkei Avot (Ethics of the Fathers), "Al Tistakel B'kankan Elah B'ma Sheyesh bo," which means, "Don't look at the bottle, rather look at what is inside." Amy learns that Beryl is not just a Hasidic boy, Miss Sophie is not just an old lady, and John is not just a handsome jock!
  • General Grant's anti-Semitic behavior during the Civil War is explored.

Positive Role Models

  • The Dream Team, comprised of Amy, Beryl, Miss Sophia, and John, discovers commonalities amongst them while investigating Anna Slonovich's life.
  • Anna Slonovich facinates Amy because she was "independent, spunky, adventurous, and ambitious."
  • Amy becomes a more tolerant friend and learns to respect Callie's choices and Beryl's commitment to his religious life.

Content Advisory:

This book has no physical violence. There are a few minor swear words and there is a cameo appearance by a Halloween cross-dresser.

Topics to Discuss

  • Amy calls her fellow researchers, her "Dream Team." If you could put together a dream team to help you do something, who would you pick and what would you do?
  • Amy completely identifies as a New York City girl. When Callie says she likes Kansas, Amy is shocked. Imagine the perfect place in the world for you to live; what does it look like?

More for You

On December 17, 1862, General Ulysses S. Grant expelled Jewish families from Tennessee, Missouri, and Kentucky. Grant had been charged with stopping illegal war profiteering, and, like many around him, he blamed the Jews for illegallly trading cotton. While a few Jews may have engaged in this practice, most did not. In the town of Paducah, Kentucky, the army gave the town's 30 Jewish families 24 hours to evacuate. None of them were guilty and at least two of them were Union army veterans! When President Lincoln was informed about this order (by a Jewish delegation) he revoked it immediately.