Rivka's First Thanksgiving

Overview

To the Rabbi Yoshe Preminger, Sir, My Bubbeh believes you are the wisest man in the whole world, but I cannot agree with her. You have read a thousand books, but you do not seem to understand that immigrants came to America to escape from mean, wicked people who hurt them and their families. That is why the Pilgrims came and that is why the Jewish people came later. The Pilgrims were thankful and I think that ...
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Overview

To the Rabbi Yoshe Preminger, Sir, My Bubbeh believes you are the wisest man in the whole world, but I cannot agree with her. You have read a thousand books, but you do not seem to understand that immigrants came to America to escape from mean, wicked people who hurt them and their families. That is why the Pilgrims came and that is why the Jewish people came later. The Pilgrims were thankful and I think that we should be too.

Signed by Rivka Rabin

Having heard about Thanksgiving in school, nine-year-old Rivka tries to convince her immigrant family and her Rabbi that it is a holiday for all Americans, Jews and non-Jews alike.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
After learning about Thanksgiving in school in the 1910s, nine-year-old Rivka succeeds in persuading her immigrant family and her rabbi that it is a holiday for all Americans even Jewish families. Rivka's case to her rabbi (and six of his peers) is impassioned, although some readers may have trouble believing that none of these learned men has heard of the holiday. Kovalski (Queen Nadine) is at her best with scenes of the Lower East Side's bustling streets, but her cartoonish illustrations often clash with Rael's (What Zeesie Saw on Delancy Street) moving message. Ages 5-9. (Oct.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Children's Literature
How does a small girl convince her immigrant elders that an American holiday is suitable for Jews also to celebrate? Especially when they don't know what a turkey is or what Indians have to do with them? Rivka is persuasive enough to send her Bubbeh (grandmother) to consult the Rabbi for an answer, but neither Rivka nor Bubbeh are persuasive enough to convince the Rabbi. Seeing her hopes to introduce her family to this wonderful feast evaporating, Rivka takes matters into her own hands in this beautiful story about adopting the best of America into one's own culture and festivals. The author might have made an even stronger story by pleading that Jews already had a similar celebration—Sukkot, their own harvest feast. But Rivka carries the day in any case, and this is a story that will warm all hearts, as did Rael's What Zeesie Saw on Delancy Street and When Zaydeh Danced on Eldridge Street. Kovalski's colored pencil and acrylic drawings are impeccable in tone and coloration, lending golden warmth to this lovely book. 2001, McElderry, $16.00. Ages 5 to 9. Reviewer: Judy Chernak
School Library Journal
Gr 1-3-After learning about Thanksgiving at school, Rivka tries to persuade her Jewish immigrant family to observe this quintessential American holiday. But their resistance to participating in a "Gentile" celebration leads the nine-year-old to confront the family's rabbi with a letter pointing out the similarities between the Pilgrims and the Jews in escaping religious persecution. While the theme of an immigrant child trying to bridge the gap between her new life in America and the traditions of her family is one that endures, this book fails to convey the cultural importance of Thanksgiving, not to mention the vibrant life of Jewish immigrants on New York's Lower East Side in the 1910s. Based on a story passed down through the author's family, the text is wordy and presupposes too much knowledge about Jewish immigrants. The pencil-and-acrylic illustrations are cloyingly sweet and merely average in quality. On some pages, Rivka appears to be a much younger child, which contradicts her precocious challenge to the esteemed rabbi. An additional title at best.-Teri Markson, Stephen S. Wise Temple Elementary School, Los Angeles Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
This paean to the wisdom of children is based on Rael's (When Zaydeh Danced on Eldridge Street, 1997, etc.) own memories as a child of Jewish immigrants growing up on Manhattan's Lower East Side and will remind many readers of Barbara Cohen's Molly's Pilgrim. Like Cohen's tale, Rivka Rubin's story is set in early 20th-century New York City. In Rael's treatment, however, it is the child who understands intuitively that Thanksgiving is indeed a holiday for all Americans and thus may rightfully be embraced by recently arrived Jews, for they have much to be grateful for in having arrived in the US. It's not so easy to convince the adults around her, though, unfamiliar as they are with this American tradition. The neighborhood's revered rabbi initially decides that Thanksgiving is not a celebration for Jews, and that's enough to settle the matter for Rivka's family. Determinedly and with a show of the special brand of chutzpah given only to children, Rivka writes the rabbi a letter that begins: "My Bubbeh believes you are the wisest man in the whole world, but I cannot agree with her." The rabbi ultimately gives his blessing to Rivka's argument and is invited to sit at the head of the table at the Rubin family's first Thanksgiving celebration in America. Kovalski's (Jingle Bells, 1999, etc.) charming drawings, rendered in colored pencils and acrylics, burst with good cheer and beautifully depict the bustling streets of the Lower East Side and its close-knit families. (glossary) (Picture book. 5-8)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780689841057
  • Publisher: Aladdin
  • Publication date: 10/28/2004
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 32
  • Age range: 5 - 9 Years
  • Product dimensions: 8.50 (w) x 0.20 (h) x 11.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Elsa Okon Rael has written several children's books based on her own childhood experiences growing up on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. What Zeesie Saw on Delancy Street, illustrated by Marjorie Priceman, was an ALA Notable Children's Book, a Bulletin Blue Ribbon, and a Hungry Mind Children's Book of Distinction. Its sequel, When Zaydeh Danced on Eldridge Street, won the prestigious Sydney Taylor Book Award. Like the young heroine in Rivka's First Thanksgiving, Ms. Rael first learned about the holiday of Thanksgiving in public school -- and she, too, had to convince her immigrant parents to celebrate Thanksgiving at home.
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