Elan, Son of Two Peoples

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Having one Jewish and one non-Jewish parent today is barely noteworthy. But in 1898, young Elan is the very definition of exceptional: his father, a merchant, is Jewish, and his mother ("Naya") is the granddaughter of an Acoma Pueblo Indian chief. When Elan turns 13, he is called to the Torah as a Bar Mitzvah in a San Francisco synagogue. Then his family makes the long journey by train and horse to his mother's magnificent mesa homeland, where he dons a ceremonial eagle headdress and takes part in a Pueblo coming-of-age ceremony. "Always remember you are the son of two proud nations, whose roots are as sturdy and deep as this oak tree," says Naya. Inspired by the true-life story of Solomon Bibo (an afterword provides details), Hyde (Feivel's Flying Horses) uses spare but heartfelt prose to show how Elan's family bridges, but never blurs, their two cultures. Prevost's (Trouble Talk) watercolor and collage artwork combines beautifully subtle craftsmanship (the first rendering of the Acoma mesa is created from washes of color and folded paper) with the spontaneous, authentic feel of a period sketchbook. Ages 5-9. (Mar.)
Children's Literature - Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
In 1898, young Elan has celebrated his Bar Mitzvah wearing his grandfather’s tallit. The next day he is on a train with his family from San Francisco to New Mexico, where his mother, granddaughter of a Pueblo Indian chief, was born. There, where his parents met, he will participate in the Pueblo ceremony of becoming a man. His mother has woven him a special tallit with symbols of both cultures. At the mesa, Elan wanders and wonders with his cousin Manolo. On the Sabbath Elan says the prayers and blessings in his new tallit. That night, in a men-only ceremony in a kiva, Elan celebrates his initiation. As he reluctantly leaves the mesa, he recalls what his mother has told him, that he is “…the son of two proud nations.” The naturalistic, unsophisticated art across double pages lacks fine details, but represents both the Native American and Jewish cultures. The mesa, the architecture, and the costumes are all there. There is a historic note about the inspiration for the story. There is also a glossary. Reviewer: Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz; Ages 5 to 9.
Kirkus Reviews
Thirteen-year-old Elan learns about his dual Jewish and Pueblo Indian heritage on a trip from San Francisco to New Mexico where he will read from the Torah and participate in a traditional Pueblo ceremony of becoming a man. In 1898, Elan feels fortunate and special to have a Jewish father and a mother of Pueblo descent. While his family reviews the story of their mixed backgrounds, similarities between the two cultures become apparent. The transition from childhood to adult is respectfully addressed through Elan's two coming-of-age ceremonies, witnessed by both families. For his bar mitzvah Torah reading, Elan proudly accepts a special tallit woven by his mother with symbols of the Star of David, the Ten Commandments, a stalk of corn and an oak tree. His parents remind Elan that he is the son of two proud nations, as his name means "oak tree" in Hebrew and "friendly" in the language of his mother's people, the Acoma Pueblo. With his father, cousin Manolo and the other men of the community, Elan is welcomed into the Acoma tribe with rituals in the kiva (appropriately not depicted). Gouache scenes in soft, earthy tones gently depict the journey. Based on the life of a 19th-century Jewish man who became Pueblo governor, a sweet celebration of diverse heritage. (historical note, glossary) (Picture book. 8-10)
Children's Literature - Lois Rubin Gross
Based on an actual nineteenth century family, author Heidi Smith Hyde tells a very unusual tale of a boy who becomes a Bar Mitzvah in a New Mexican pueblo. Elan is the son of an Ashkenazic Jewish father and a Native American mother who converted to Judaism. As a child of two traditions, Elan is first called the Torah in his San Francisco synagogue where he prophetically chants a portion called “Barnidbar,” or “in the desert.” Days later, his family travels to his mother’s pueblo where he again chants his portion for his mother’s family and also takes part in his maternal family’s coming of age ceremony. In this book, the most interesting facts are in the details. Elan’s name has meaning in both Hebrew (“oak tree”) and his mother’s language (“friendly”). His mother’s tribe, like traditional Jews, excludes women from religious rituals. The companionable acceptance of a family with two traditions will resonate for many contemporary mixed families, and might expand into a lesson on how Moses married a non-Jewish woman while living in the desert. Elan’s coloring reflects his mixed parentage, which may speak to children of interracial unions or children adopted into the Jewish community. The illustrations in the book carry the flavor of the southwestern desert with sand-colored cliffs highlighted with pink sandstone typical of the region. In particular, a double-paged spread of a Native American grandfather sharing stories looks very much like the storyteller images that are familiar in the Southwest. If there is a flaw, it is that the author chose to use the contemporary Sephardic spelling of Hebrew words when Elan probably would have learned the Ashkenazic variant. Historical facts of how a Jewish man became a Pueblo governor add an intriguing footnote. Reviewer: Lois Rubin Gross; Ages 5 to 8.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780761390510
  • Publisher: Lerner Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 3/1/2014
  • Series: Lerner Life Cycle Series
  • Pages: 32
  • Sales rank: 1,482,906
  • Age range: 5 - 8 Years
  • Product dimensions: 9.50 (w) x 11.00 (h) x 0.30 (d)

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