The Path of Names


Mysteries, mazes, and magic combine in this smart, funny summer-camp fantasy -- like THE AMAZING ADVENTURES OF KAVALIER & CLAY for kids!

Dahlia Sherman loves magic, and Math Club, and Guitar Hero. She isn't so fond of nature walks, and Hebrew campfire songs, and mean girls her own age.

All of which makes a week at summer camp pretty much the worst idea ever.

But within minutes of arriving at camp, Dahlia ...

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New York 2013 Hardcover First printing New in new jacket Thirteen-year-old Dahlia's reluctance about attending Camp Arava changes to wonder as strange things begin to happen, ... and soon she is connecting with David Schank, a student of the kabbala, and the maze he built at the camp in the 1930s. Read more Show Less

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The Path of Names

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Mysteries, mazes, and magic combine in this smart, funny summer-camp fantasy -- like THE AMAZING ADVENTURES OF KAVALIER & CLAY for kids!

Dahlia Sherman loves magic, and Math Club, and Guitar Hero. She isn't so fond of nature walks, and Hebrew campfire songs, and mean girls her own age.

All of which makes a week at summer camp pretty much the worst idea ever.

But within minutes of arriving at camp, Dahlia realizes that it might not be as bad as she'd feared. First she sees two little girls walk right through the walls of her cabin. Then come the dreams -- frighteningly detailed visions of a young man being pursued through 1930s New York City. How are the dreams and the girls related? Why is Dahlia the only one who can see any of them? And what's up with the overgrown, strangely shaped hedge maze that none of the campers are allowed to touch? Dahlia's increasingly dangerous quest for answers will lead her right to the center of the maze -- but it will take all her courage, smarts, and sleight-of-hand skills to get her back out again.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Goelman infuses the familiar summer camp setting and its attendant ghost stories with elements of Jewish mysticism in this intriguing and layered first novel. Stubborn and whip-smart Dahlia Sherman, 13, longs to attend magic camp instead of Jewish sleepaway camp, but her parents are adamant that she give Camp Arava a chance. Once there, Dahlia's fondness for sleight-of-hand magic tricks is quickly trumped by her awareness that truly uncanny forces are at work around her. She encounters a mysterious caretaker and ghosts of small girls that only she can see, and she inexplicably begins to possess knowledge of Hebrew and of a clandestine mystical sect from the past. Dahlia's experiences at camp are both socially and psychologically transformative, as she forms significant friendships with those who help her unravel the camp's secrets. The complex magical elements, especially in chapters that flash back more than 70 years into the life of a talented rabbi, offer a captivating overview of Jewish intellectual history (with some artistic license) while Dahlia's story delivers authentic chills and a touch of romance. Ages 10–14. Agent: Lindsay Ribar, Sanford J. Greenburger Associates. (May)
From the Publisher

"Spunky, sarcastic Dahlia begins summer camp by watching two girls disappear through the wall of her
cabin. Then she starts dreaming about David Schank, a 1940s Yeshiva student on the lam after discovering
the very powerful seventy-second name of God. Meanwhile, Barry, the ancient groundskeeper, intently
guards the hedge maze on camp property. At first, Dahlia denies any mystical goings-on, instead believing
that her dreams are a fluke and the ghostly girls are just another magic trick. That is, until she starts
reading an old book on kabbalah that ties it all together. Kabbalah? Oh yes, and it works. Jewish mysticism
is heavy stuff, but Goelman (perhaps purposefully) muddles through a vague explanation—from an inept
counselor more interested in groovy spiritualism than mystical enlightenment—and lets the magical
elements of the tradition do the heavy lifting. Dahlia channels David’s knowledge of the seventy-second
name and the magical power of words to enter the maze, which contains a secret passage to a higher
dimension. With the help of her friends, she uses her mystical powers to confront the Illuminated One,
who selfishly seeks the name for himself. Debut author Goelman’s story is full of exciting plot twists and
well-rounded, engaging characters—all amped up by thrilling esoteric magic." — Sarah Hunter, Booklist starred review

Kirkus Reviews
Goelman's debut novel, part summer-camp tale, part ghost story and part murder mystery, is served with a sprinkling of math and a heavy dose of often-confusing Jewish orthodoxy. Thirteen-year-old math and magic geek Dahlia reluctantly agrees to three weeks at a Jewish summer camp. There, the ghosts of two little girls visit her, and she begins to dream of David Schank, a young yeshiva student in New York in the 1930s. Soon, she realizes his spirit has possessed her; he is an ibur who needs her help to complete a task he began when alive. The novel alternates between David's story, in which he first discovers and then fails to hide from the Illuminated Ones the 72nd name of God, and Dahlia's, as she attempts to figure out what the ghosts and the spirit want and why the creepy caretaker won't let any children into the camp's overgrown hedge maze. A substantial cast of characters, multiple plot twists in both narrative storylines, some subplots that go nowhere, a golem, gematria or Jewish numerology, the cabala and more make this novel a challenging read. It's certainly a refreshing change from the usual focus in middle-grade Jewish fiction on the Holocaust, immigrants and bar/bat mitzvahs, and the inclusion of a girl protagonist who loves math is also welcome. Despite its potential, though, it's likely that the book will have limited appeal. (Paranormal mystery. 12-15)
Children's Literature - Lisa Colozza Cocca
Magic, mystery, and mysticism combine in this novel about thirteen-year-old Dahlia at Jewish summer camp. Dahlia is resistant when her parents send her to camp to make some Jewish friends. She prefers math and magic to the outdoors. However, upon arriving, Dahlia sees two young girls walk through the walls of her cabin. At first, she is certain it is some kind of magic trick, but she soon realizes it is something more. (The entire event happens in the course of one week.) At camp, Dahlia sees things others do not see, understands the announcements given in Hebrew, even though she does not speak Hebrew, and dreams about David Schank. She discovers it has been seventy-two years since David discovered the seventy-second name of God. Dahlia is sure his spirit is working through her as she is drawn toward the forbidden maze on the camp property. She goes about solving the mystery and ending the danger while dealing with the requisite mean girls in her cabin, a very mild flirtation with a boy, and a mysterious caretaker. Reviewer: Lisa Colozza Cocca
School Library Journal
Gr 5–7—When 13-year-old Dahlia, a sleight of hand expert, agrees to go to a Jewish summer camp, she worries that she won't fit in or make friends. And almost immediately, things get strange. Before she even enters her cabin, two girls appear in a shimmer of light and then walk calmly through the cabin wall. As the days go on, Dahlia is drawn deeper into the mystery of who they are, why the camp caretaker seems to dislike her, and why he insists that none of the campers goes near the maze in the ground. This unique, engaging fantasy takes readers on a spooky, exciting journey between Dahlia's world and the mysterious world of David Schank, a man from the 1940s who begins to inhabit her psyche as the power of the mystical Kabbalah forces its way into the world. Dahlia finds herself able to speak fluent Hebrew and "knowing" things she couldn't know. As children go missing, the threats multiply and coalesce in a thrilling conclusion. Readers without any knowledge of Gematria (the assigning of numbers with mystical significance to words), the Kabbalah, or the myth of the golem may find some details challenging. However, the action and excitement should carry them through. Debut novelist Goelman skillfully navigates the intricacies of the fantasy world in two eras and the contemporary dramas of the camp, complete with mean girls, friendship issues, and a popular older brother who is a counselor. The dialogue of the present-day characters has a wonderfully sure touch, and the figures from the 1940s, particularly the ominous caretaker, come powerfully to life.—Sue Giffard, Ethical Culture Fieldston School, New York City
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780545474306
  • Publisher: Scholastic, Inc.
  • Publication date: 4/30/2013
  • Pages: 352
  • Age range: 10 - 14 Years
  • Lexile: 680L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.94 (w) x 8.36 (h) x 1.15 (d)

Meet the Author

Ari Goelman has published many science-fiction/fantasy short stories, and his academic work has been covered by the Brookings Institution and the NEW YORK TIMES. An American citizen, Ari currently lives and teaches in Vancouver, Canada, with his family and the rain.
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