The extraordinary story of how one family, and one young boy in particular, are changed forever when Zayda (Yiddish for “grandfather”) comes to live with them. At first the young narrator, Bill, is resistant to all the changes in the house: Zayda spooks his friends, tries to get Bill to speak Yiddish, and demands strange foods like herring. But as Zayda starts telling Bill and his brother Danny the fascinating story of his life, a story filled with many extraordinary dangers and adventures, the boys begin to see ...
The extraordinary story of how one family, and one young boy in particular, are changed forever when Zayda (Yiddish for “grandfather”) comes to live with them. At first the young narrator, Bill, is resistant to all the changes in the house: Zayda spooks his friends, tries to get Bill to speak Yiddish, and demands strange foods like herring. But as Zayda starts telling Bill and his brother Danny the fascinating story of his life, a story filled with many extraordinary dangers and adventures, the boys begin to see their grandfather in a whole new light. From why, as a young boy, he was forced to flee his Russian village for America to how he eventually became a cowboy, Zayda holds the boys captive with his amazing tale. Like Zayda’s grandsons, young readers—and their parents and teachers—will also be entranced by Zayda’s saga. While the characters are fictional, Zayda’s experiences are historically correct and are a colorful retelling of a fascinating yet little-known time of Jewish-American history. This book, like Zayda himself—funny, touching, and memorable—is destined to be a favorite of Jewish and non-Jewish children alike, teachers, librarians, and educators for many years to come.
"The true charm of the story is in listening to Zayda tell it . . . Seldom does a written narrative so resemble human speech and just as seldom does narrative style establish character as well as this does."—Jewish Book World
American Library Association Booklist
"The facts of cowboy work will fascinate kids, as will the seldom-told immigration story . . . . This will make a great read-aloud; the story will interest kids no matter what their religious background."—American Library Association Booklist
Ottawa Jewish Bulletin
"Though its characters are fictional, its Old World and New World adventures are historically accurate, often fascinating, sometimes humorous, and thoroughly empathetic . . . . an entertaining, rewarding read."—Ottawa Jewish Bulletin
"Nislick's historical fiction provides multicultural experiences that are good lessons for all . . . . Boys would enjoy the adventures of Zayda as a cowboy, and there are parts of this book that are laugh-out-loud funny."—Multicultural Review
Stories of Jewish immigrants coming to America from Europe abound, but most of them focus on arrival at Ellis Island or other Eastern U.S. ports. Taking a different tack, Nislick shines the spotlight on efforts to help Jews immigrate to Texas and the Southwest in the early 1900s by offering the tale of one family's emigration. In the year 1980, Bill and his younger brother, Danny, are adjusting to having their elderly grandfather move in with them, a situation that has put some strain on the household. But as Zayda feels more comfortable, he tells his grandsons a fascinating bedtime story of how, as a boy, he bravely journeyed from a tiny town in Russia to Galveston, Tex., and became a true-blue American cowboy. In Nislick's ambitious story-within-a-story (winner of the Sydney Taylor manuscript award), Zayda's recollections whiz through lots of history, beginning with the persecution suffered by Jews in many European countries of the day. Though many of the details and situations seem spot-on, the writing style often relies on exclamation points and a "can you believe this?" tone that makes Zayda seem less a real character than a contrivance for relaying important facts. In the end, however, readers of various ages will find much of interest in this look at a little known bit of Jewish and American history. Ages 8-12. (May) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Surprisingly, Zayda Was a Cowboy is June Levitt Nislick's first children's book. A writer for the newsletter of the Jewish Family & Children's Family Service of North Jersey for many years, she had never considered publishing a children's book until winning the Sydney Taylor prize for an unpublished manuscript. A mother and a grandmother, Nislick lives with her husband in Manhatan.