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Sparks Fly Upward

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Family means everything to 12-year-old Rebecca Bernstein. Even after a fire destroys their farm and the family must relocate to the bustling city of Winnipeg, Rebecca feels safe and happy as long as everyone is together. But life is hard in the city, and Papa cannot find work. Rebecca’s greatest fears are realized when she is sent into foster care until Papa can earn more money. She is terrified to discover that she’ll be living with a Ukrainian family—Jews and Ukrainians were ...

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Overview

Family means everything to 12-year-old Rebecca Bernstein. Even after a fire destroys their farm and the family must relocate to the bustling city of Winnipeg, Rebecca feels safe and happy as long as everyone is together. But life is hard in the city, and Papa cannot find work. Rebecca’s greatest fears are realized when she is sent into foster care until Papa can earn more money. She is terrified to discover that she’ll be living with a Ukrainian family—Jews and Ukrainians were archenemies in the old country. What if the Kostianuks hate her?
Rebecca discovers an unexpected soulmate in Sophie, the Kostianuks’ daughter. Normally shy, Rebecca soon finds herself battling prejudice both in the schoolyard and at home in order to protect the forbidden friendship. Fighting anti-Semitism, Rebecca comes to appreciate what faith means to her and learns some important truths about her parents’ personal and spiritual sacrifices.

In 1910, when a family of Russian Jews moves from Saskatchewan to Winnipeg, Canada, twelve-year-old Rebecca must live with Christians temporarily and struggles with anti-Semitism, confusion about God, and changing relationships with family and friends.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
There's no sentimentality in the characterization—even Rebecca's dad surprises her—and the history is well researched. Most compelling, though, is Rebecca's personal struggle with faith, friendship, and loyalty.
Booklist, ALA

The complexity of different approaches to Judaism is dramatized in this large and loving family whose difficulties are typical of immigrants to the US and Canada in the early 20th century.
School Library Journal

Children's Literature
Older fans of Sydney Taylor's "All-of-a-Kind-Family" series will welcome twelve-year-old Rebecca Bernstein with open hearts. Rebecca is part of a large Russian Jewish family living together in Canada in the early twentieth century. At first the cast of characters seems like a lot to sort through, since we meet every one of her aunts and uncles, brothers and sisters, but each is important to the story as an influence on Rebecca. Coming home one night from a play, the family sees their home go up in flames. Devastated, the family packs what little they have left and moves to Winnipeg, where they must separate. Rebecca goes to live with a Ukrainian family, and she fears that she will experience the same anti-Semitism the Jews experienced from Ukrainians in Europe. Her worries are alleviated when the family's daughter Sophie befriends her, but that friendship is not without its troubles. Rebecca is expected to be part of a circle of Jewish girls led by wealthy bully Rachel, who does not approve of Rebecca's friendship with Sophie. Rebecca is torn in her loyalties, but ultimately chooses to stay friends with Sophie, especially when they experience sickness and disaster together. When Sophie's brother attacks Rebecca's uncle with a knife, Rebecca seeks advice from her rabbi and is brought closer to her family. Ultimately, Rebecca is enriched by her experiences, discovering new secrets about her family and becoming stronger through adversity. 2002, Clarion Books,
— Carlie Kraft
School Library Journal
Gr 4-7-When their farmhouse burns to the ground, Rebecca Bernstein's family must leave their comfortable Jewish farming community in Saskatchewan and move to Winnipeg. Because her theater-loving father refuses to take just any job and there isn't enough room for the large extended family in the small storefront her grandfather finds, the 12-year-old is sent into foster care with a neighboring family. Worse yet, the Kostaniuks are Ukrainian and very Christian. Although Sophie Kostaniuk, who shares Rebecca's love for reading, could easily be her best friend, Sophie's brother Sasha and her father hate Jews, and fights break out at school between Sasha and Rebecca's favorite uncles, Max and Sam. Scarlet fever brings the two girls closer and they cement their friendship when they rescue small children from a fire in the quarantine hospital where they've been sent. Then Sasha attacks Max with a knife, and Rebecca's grandfather removes her from the foster home and forbids her to see Sophie. How can the timid girl go against him? Good advice comes from the rabbi, who helps her see her own courage and find a way to maintain her friendship and ease the enmity between the boys. The complexity of different approaches to Judaism is dramatized in this large and loving family whose difficulties are typical of immigrants to the U.S. as well as Canada in the early 20th century. The less familiar historical and cultural setting is clearly described. This satisfying friendship story should appeal to middle-grade readers, especially girls.-Kathleen Isaacs, Edmund Burke School, Washington, DC Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780618159642
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 3/28/2002
  • Pages: 192
  • Age range: 10 - 14 Years
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.25 (h) x 0.56 (d)

Meet the Author

Carol Matas is the co-author (with Perry Nodelman) of the popular Minds series (Simon & Schuster), including OF TWO MINDS, MORE MINDS, A MEETING OF THE MINDS, and OUT OF THEIR MINDS. She is also the author of several historical fiction novels for young adults, including AFTER THE WAR, DANIEL'S STORY, GREATER THAN ANGELS, and IN MY ENEMY'S HOUSE. Ms. Matas lives in California and in Canada with her family.

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