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The Singing Mountain

The Singing Mountain

5.0 1
by Sonia Levitin, Levitin

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Mitch's decision to study Judaism has led his cousin, Carlie, struggling to understand his spiritual journey as well as her own feelings for him, which go beyond sisterly affection.


Mitch's decision to study Judaism has led his cousin, Carlie, struggling to understand his spiritual journey as well as her own feelings for him, which go beyond sisterly affection.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Levitin (Journey to America) contributes an unusually intelligent, thought-provoking novel about faith. Mitch Green, a suburban Californian bound for UCLA in the fall, is on a summer tour of Israel with his temple's youth group when he meets someone from an Orthodox yeshiva--and decides to stay on and study at the yeshiva himself. Mitch's cousin Carlie, an orphan who is being raised by Mitch's parents, describes the reaction at home: the Greens, Reform Jews, are horrified and certain Mitch has been brainwashed. Mitch's letters, saying that before he felt "parched" and now feels "nourished," sound to the family "almost as if someone else were dictating [them]." By Christmas, Carlie and her aunt are bound for Israel, to spend time with Mitch and see if they can bring him home. As they grapple with weighty issues-e.g., belief in God in the face of tragedy, and putting principles above personal relationships--Levitin's own touch is light. She maintains a remarkable evenhandedness with all her characters, major and minor, as she presents conflicting points of view without favoring any one of them or insisting that they ultimately converge. She unfolds bits of the characters' pasts with precision timing, creating little revelations that illuminate both the characters and the challenges they confront. Some of the religious matters are simplified--appropriately, given a general readership--but the fundamental issues will touch teens of all persuasions. Ages 12-up. (Oct.)
To quote KLIATT's Jan. 1999 review of the hardcover edition: This is an unusual book, about an American Jewish family shaken to its core when the 18-year-old son chooses to stay in Israel to study at an Orthodox yeshiva rather than pursue the usual American dream at UCLA. There is much here about Judaism, Jewish life and studies, yet I believe that all YAs interested in any religion at all will be caught up in Mitch's agonizing choice. Mitch finds the quiet order of Orthodoxy attractive as he judges his life in the American suburbs to be hectic and materialistic. He thinks his parents measure all success by the amount of money made. Levitin manages to avoid the more glaring stereotypes in telling the story, and humanizes each character, including the mother and father, so that the reader sees that Mitch's choice is complicated. Part of the complexity is that Mitch is an artist, and in Israel he has found a way to work with metal and stone that is satisfying. A main theme is finding joy in religious faith. Mitch wants to stay in Israel to explore the faith of his forebears, even though it is a country fraught with terrorism on a grand scale, and political, religious, and social bickering in everyday life. Sectarian intolerance and the fear of terrorist attack are made clear by Levitin, who really does try to present a whole picture, not just a rosy-colored one. One part is misleading. She portrays the American Jews as ignorant of their faith and nonobservant, and the main characters in Israel are all Orthodox—anyone with any knowledge of the situation understands that there are also many nonobservant Jews in Israel and many religious Jews in America. Still, all YAs who understandsomething about religious faith and the stability and joy such a faith can bring to a life will be able to go with Mitch on his own spiritual journey in this book. KLIATT Codes: JS—Recommended for junior and senior high school students. 1998, Simon & Schuster/Aladdin, 298p, 18cm, 97-33365, $4.99. Ages 13 to 18. Reviewer: Claire Rosser; May 2000 (Vol. 34 No. 3)
Children's Literature - Jackie Hechtkopf
Each chapter of this emotionally engrossing book alternates between Mitch Green, the only son of a non-observant Jewish family, who has decided to study Orthodox Judaism in Jerusalem, and the family he left behind in California. Mitch's parents fear he has been ensnared by a cult. They can't imagine any other reason why the son who rarely attended synagogue wants to forego UCLA in favor of an entirely Jewish education. Mitch isn't sure why he feels like a parched man guzzling water in the desert. But he is unable to leave this spiritual nourishment, even after his mother and cousin come to Jerusalem in an effort to bring him home. Mitch's feelings for his cousin Carlie present another enigma. After the death of Carlie's parents, they have lived like brother and sister. Yet the feelings they have seem to go beyond friendship. The complicated emotions of all the characters are skillfully and believably drawn. The reader empathizes with everyone. Levitin's depiction of both sides of a family conflict is a tour de force.
VOYA - Judy Ehrenstein
A summer trip to Israel turns into an exploration of traditional Judaism for eighteen-year-old Mitch Green. A "once-a-year Jew," Mitch suddenly finds meaning in prayer, contentment in ritual, and excitement in study when he decides to stay and study at a yeshiva. Back home, Mitch's parents are sure he has been brainwashed. Carlie, Mitch's sixteen-year-old orphaned cousin, sorts through her feelings about his actions and her relationship with Mitch and his parents. During a trip to try to convince Mitch to come home, Carlie realizes that she is indeed loved by her aunt and uncle. Just as she has come to feel comfortable with her place in the world, she sees that Mitch has also found happiness and a path he needs to follow. Religion, for many, is defined by what one cannot do; here readers see the beauty and peacefulness it can bring. Mitch's abrupt transformation is not uncommon, nor is his family's lack of understanding, but the repeated use of terms like "cult" and "brainwashed" do not serve to educate or create tolerance of fundamentalist religions. The chapters taking place in California seem trite and superficial, with little character development. Carlie needs more definition and the situation about her losing her parents is left hanging. Possible romantic feelings between Carlie and Mitch seem unnecessary to an already full story. The cover art and title will not draw readers on their own. The strength of this book comes from its positive depiction of Orthodox Jewish life. In Margaret P. Haddix's Leaving Fishers (Simon & Schuster, 1997/VOYA February 1998), Dorry gets involved with a true cult, extricates herself, yet sees the need she has for the community and spirituality a church can offer. Books like these say that religion is "okay," which can be reassuring when one's parents or friends do not feel the same way. VOYA Codes: 2Q 3P M J S (Better editing or work by the author might have warranted a 3Q, Will appeal with pushing, Middle School-defined as grades 6 to 8, Junior High-defined as grades 7 to 9 and Senior High-defined as grades 10 to 12).
School Library Journal - School Library Journal
Gr 8 Up-Mitch Green, a teenager who enjoys carefree days at the beach, decides not to return home to southern California from his summer trip to Israel. Instead of starting his first year at UCLA, he decides to study the Torah and live and study at a yeshiva. He has never before felt the joy and fulfillment he experiences while living in Jerusalem. His parents are convinced he has been brainwashed, but his cousin Carlie, who has lived with the Greens since her parents' death, isn't sure. In alternating chapters, Mitch and Carlie tell their stories of change, maturation, and love. The young man's spiritual growth and interest in his religion and history are fascinating. His strength of character and thoughtfulness are well portrayed. Carlie also matures both spiritually and emotionally, and is a likable, intelligent teenager. Many issues of religion, politics, and family dynamics are raised and discussed by Mitch and Carlie, as well as their friends and family in Israel and America. Another important and outstanding work by Levitin, this unique novel covers fresh territory.-Elisabeth Palmer Abarbanel, Brentwood School, Los Angeles

Product Details

Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers
Publication date:
Edition description:
1 ED
Product dimensions:
5.74(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.98(d)
Age Range:
12 - 17 Years

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The Singing Mountain 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Wonderful book! Great description in scenery. I got this book as a gift and I loved this book! You fall in love with the characters. A must read!