Rifka Takes a Bow

Rifka Takes a Bow

5.0 1
by Betty Rosenberg Perlov, Cosei Kawa

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A slice of immigrant life on New York's Second Avenue.


A slice of immigrant life on New York's Second Avenue.

Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Elizabeth Fronk
Rifka's parents act in the Yiddish Theater; sometimes Rifka goes with them. Rifka enjoys watching her parents transform themselves into other people. Rifka goes with her father under the stage to view the props. One day, as Rifka views the stage, it is set up like the outside of a house. She gets tired of waiting; suddenly she finds herself on stage with other actors pointing at her. Her papa sees her and calls to her. An audience member wants her to say something. She responds with "Piff-Paff" and receives much applause. Rifka sees herself on the stage when she grows up. This first-hand account comes from a true story of the author who is now in her 90s. Unfortunately while the illustrations are visually interesting—very angular and modern—they do not easily convey any sense of the time period. The illustrations' starkness also does not provide much context for any reader unaware of early New York theater. First and second graders may not understand about the time period and may have a hard time staying interested. Young thespians may enjoy Rifka and her impromptu stage appearance. Reviewer: Elizabeth Fronk
Kirkus Reviews
Rifka accidentally finds herself onstage in a Yiddish theater production and speaks her first lines as an actress: "Piff-Paff! Not to worry." The Yiddish theater was a vibrant part of immigrant life in New York in the first part of the 20th century. Rifka's parents are actors who introduce her to the magical world of that theater. She is especially impressed with the way in which her parents can take on the personae of the characters they play, with just a bit of makeup, some props and costumes, and changes in body language. The surrounding elements of the city are also part of the fun. They travel on the subway with its noise and diversity. They eat at the Automat, putting in their nickels and taking out the food. Perlov makes it all come alive, employing a conversational syntax that speaks directly to readers. It is a memoir told with love and nostalgia, for it is her own story, told from a distance of nine decades. Kawa's illustrations are as magical as any theater experience. She employs a variety of media to turn real places and events into fantasy landscapes from several perspectives, in dreamlike images that are somewhat reminiscent of Chagall. Look closely and there are tiny shapes and designs floating through the larger pictures. Unusual and unabashedly charming. (afterword) (Picture book. 5-9)

Product Details

Lerner Publishing Group
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
9.40(w) x 11.10(h) x 0.40(d)
Age Range:
5 - 8 Years

Meet the Author

Betty Rosenberg Perlov, 96, grew up in the Yiddish Theater, where her mother was an actress and her father a writer and producer. Always artistic, she was a "child star" on her father's weekly Yiddish radio soap opera. She grew up, married, and went to college late in in life, obtaining a Master's Degree. She has always worked hard to share her artistic vision; this book is her triumph. She lives in the Park Slope section of Brooklyn, New York.

Elizabeth Cottle is an actress, singer, and theatre director based in Northwest Ohio. She earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Communication Arts and Musical Theatre from Ohio Northern University, where she received an Irene Ryan Nomination. She is a veteran of more than 30 community theatre productions, and and was recognized for Excellence in Acting by the Ohio Community Theatre Association. In addition to her theatre background, Elizabeth has a wide variety of performing experience, from serving as lead vocalist with a jazz orchestra, to filming commercials, to doing improv sketch comedy.

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Rifka Takes a Bow 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
FeatheredQuillBookReviews More than 1 year ago
Mama and Papa looked so very different when they put on their makeup. Rifka smiled in amazement as they turned into old people. They really weren’t old, but rather they were “actors in the Yiddish Theater.” When they took her to work, they rode the subway to Union Square where they would begin their walk to the theater. They would “stop at the Automat for a snack” on their way. Mama and Papa smiled as they watched Rifka stand on a bench to reach that big piece of cherry pie. Yum! Walking to the theater was interesting, but when they reached The Grand, a theater on Second Avenue, the fun began. Rifka’s eyes grew wide as Mama became different characters. Papa too. Who was that man with the little glasses and the big, long beard? Now that’s what Rifka wanted to know. “Piff-Paff! Not to worry. I am really your papa. How else would I know your name is Rifkeleh?” She whirled through the dressing rooms (no swearing!) and peeked out onto the stage as she waited for the plays to begin. Underneath that stage it was a bit scary though with all those props. Papa told her all about how actors did special things during plays, but what was he going to say when she accidentally stepped out on that stage during a performance? This is a fun and fascinating look at Rifka and her surprise performance in a Yiddish theater. Of course Rifka’s experiences are fictional, but we are treated to a rare glimpse back in time through the eyes of Betty Rosenberg Perlov, who grew up in the theater. Her “real” story, along with photographs, is in the back of the book. The artwork is bold, bright, and delightfully whimsical as it captures the aura surrounding Yiddish theater. One of the interesting things children will marvel at are the tricks that Papa showed Rifka. Do you know why an actor isn’t hurt when an “actor hits another actor with a loud slap? If not, you will after you read this book! Quill says: This is a rare glimpse into the world of Yiddish theater through the eyes of Betty Rosenberg Perlow, a woman who experienced it!