Rebecca to the Rescue

Published in 2009; author Jacqueline Debmar Greene; illustrators Robert Hunt and Susan McAliley


The book opens with Victor doing some last-minute practicing for his Bar Mitzvah ceremony. The family heads off to synagogue (Max meets them there...with Lily!). He recites the prayers perfectly, and the whole family is proud of him. Then their father announces what they're doing to celebrate: a trip to Coney Island! Rebecca is thrilled; she was hoping for Central Park but this is much better. There, the children quickly settle in to the fun atmosphere. Rebecca and Ana take Benny wading in the surf straight away. Lily, wearing a scarf and hat to cover her bob lest her haircut look too modern, plays the part of a prim and proper lady with Rebecca's grandparents, who seem offended that the children have bare legs for playing in the water (they don't have swimsuits, and it costs too much to rent them). 

Then the adults give Victor several ride tickets to pass out to the children--except Benny, who is too young but must be furious at being left out--and go off to more sedate things, like the rose garden. They'll meet up in a few hours (and then Benny can ride the carousel). Victor has let his new status go to his head somewhat, ordering the girls around, even Sadie and Sofie who are older than he is. Michael and Josef join in, declaring that the girls aren't allowed to do some things. Wanting to prove them wrong, Rebecca tries a (probably-rigged) carnival game but ends up only wasting a third of her spending money. She and Ana go to explore the park on their own, despite Victor refusing to give them their tickets. Rebecca has enough money for them each of them to do one more ride. Ana wants to ride the Ferris wheel again while Rebecca wants to try the fun house. They decide to split up briefly, even though their parents wanted everyone to stay together. By the time Rebecca goes through the fun house and pauses to pantomime with a collapsible bench for a crowd, she discovers that the Ferris wheel has broken down. Ana is stuck on it! A work crew uses ladders to get people down, but Ana is frozen with fright in a high car. The rest of Rebecca's family has returned by now, and she tells them what happened--and why. While the Rebecca's parents, aunt, uncle, and grandparents try to figure out how to get Ana down with a police officer and some workers, Rebecca acts. She climbs the ladder up to her cousin and coaxes her down. She knows she'd never actually be allowed to do anything like this, but she also knows it's fastest, best way to get her cousin to safety.

Back on the ground, everyone claps and cheers. There is a touch of scolding for splitting up and doing something dangerous, but no more than necessary. Lily's scarf has slipped down during the excitement, and Rebecca's grandmother notices but seems to accept it. It turns out her grandparents let themselves have fun, even playing a carnival game.Victor played one as well, the one Rebecca tried. Since he's had practice playing baseball, he was able to win twice--and the second time picked the prize his sister wanted, a Kewpie doll. The family goes to a nearby restaurant for lemonade, and when the manager realizes that Rebecca was the one who climbed the ladder, he gives them a big pitcher on the house and tickets for the carousel. And I'm happy because Benny gets to go on a ride!

Looking Back

East of the Rocky Mountains, summer means heat and humidity (part of the reason I love living in the Pacific Northwest instead!). Before air conditioning, people escaped the stifling climate with trips to the shore. Coney Island was especially popular. One aspect people loved was that everyone could feel equal, regardless of income or immigration status. Another was that people felt allowed to be silly and a little improper. They could relax from the strict social rules still lingering from Victorian times, and actually have fun.


This book is dedicated to "Monty, Laurie, Martha, and Jane, who cheered me on even when the road got bumpy."

 While there have been coming-of-age ceremonies for Jewish girls for literally thousands of years, there wasn't a truly analogous one until 1922 when a rabbi had his daughter perform the same rite and declared her Bat Mitzvah ("bar" means "son" and "bat" means "daughter"; so, son or daughter of the Covenant).

Kewpie doll. Anyone else thinking of Dawn on the Coast?


Card Catalog said...

Yes, totally thought of Dawn on the Coast! That's the first time I ever heard of a Kewpie doll, so it will always remind me of that book.

SJSiff said...

Haha, not just me then! Dawn on the Coast was also the first time I'd heard of a Kewpie doll.