No Buts Becky! is a novel for 9-12-year-old readers. It is set in the East End of London about 1908. It describes the poor Yiddish-speaking Russian-Jewish immigrants who lived in tenement buildings. A year after the death of her mother Becky’s infirm grandmother, Bubbe, moves in to look after the family. Becky is shocked to discover that her father has followed the custom of the time and hired Abe Klein, a matchmaker, to find him a new wife. Becky hates the prospective stepmother, Mrs Haffner and embarks on several hilarious and hair-brained schemes to prevent the match from taking place.
This children’s novel sets out to draw the attention of the young modern reader to different aspects of Jewish religious life as well as underlining the very rigid restrictions and life style of children at the turn of the twentieth century. It is the epitome of the old adage that “children should be seen and not heard.” Both Jewish and non-Jewish readers will enjoy discovering a great deal about the customs and traditions of the time. They will enter that Jewish world where poverty and hardship had little impact on their religious faith. This book will be an important educational guideline into the various aspects of Jewish culture and tradition.
Ten-year-old Sarah has had a difficult life in late 19th century Russia. Her mother has died, her father has left to make a better life in the United States, and her stepmother is cold and uncaring. This is our introduction to the main character and the book is based on a true story. The complications continue as word comes that Sarah’s father has died in the US and her Aunt Manya has sent her a ticket to come by boat and live with her. Although Sarah is overjoyed to be leaving her stepmother, it is not easy to leave; there are friends, a cat, and the only home she has known.
The adventure begins with a family friend smuggling Sarah over the border, continues on the boat, and ends at Ellis Island. With each new stage in this adventure there is an element of beshert, a new term for Sarah but one about which she becomes an expert. There is someone or something along the way that allows her to continue this dangerous journey and begin life in a new country with a new language. Sarah shows optimism and hope all along the way.
At the end of each chapter, Sarah shares some thoughts as if she is speaking with Aunt Manya. Although the story is in third person, allowing for a more global view, the added thoughts in first person allow the reader a more personal connection with Sarah’s tribulations.
The few sketches at the chapter headings enhance the setting by giving a visual of the people and places of the time.
Recommended for ages 9-12.
by Drora Arussy
My Aunt Manya is a gripping story about a ten year old girl called Sarah. Sarah lives in Piliki, in Russia with her difficult and obnoxious step-mother. Sarah's real mother died when she was young and her father is living in America, with Sarah's Aunt Manya, looking for a sustainable and well paid job. One day Sarah receives a life changing letter from her Aunt Manya saying that her father was killed in a road accident. However the letter also included the chance for Sarah to have new life as her Aunt Manya enclosed some money and a boat ticket to take Sarah to America. Sarah desperately needed to leave her home town due to the frightening threat of pogroms happening around her. So Sarah took on the dangerous journey from Russia to America encountering many challenges along the way including helping with the delivery of a baby whilst traveling on a boat across the ocean. However after her tiresome journey not everything turns out the way she had planned and the end brings with it new surprises.
I found the book moving, intense and captivating. The beautiful detail, language and description made the scenes easy to imagine. This book was written with passion and I would love to read more about Sarah's adventures. I would definitely recommend this book to anybody who is looking for a good read. Knowing that the events that took place in the book are based around a true story makes it feel even more interesting and touching. Sarah is a real heroine and so were all the people that helped her on her long journey.
by Jenny Woolf age 13
I have just finished reading My Aunt Manya by Jose Patterson, and whilst it is primarily a book for children, I found it to be a fascinating read beautifully crafted and full of interest,the characters are brought to life with great warmth, it is a story that I would recommend to readers of all ages.
by kenneth shiffman
This engaging story captured my heart from the very first page to the very last word." Bershat " describes how I met this charming author on a train while traveling in England in April. I will be ordering her other books and spreading the news in Knoxville, Tennessee about this beautiful woman and her ability to make history come to life for all ages.
by Lucy Mitchell
My Jewish background has always defined who I am. My ancestors came from many parts of Eastern Europe, including Poland and Russia, which prompted an interest in Jewish social history. Growing up in the north, my academic husband and I eventually moved to Oxford with two small children, closely followed by two more. Somehow or other I managed to juggle home life with teacher training, eventually becoming an Advisory Teacher in Special Education (gypsy, fairground and circus children.) My decision to take early retirement meant that I was able to devote my energies to full-time writing.
I am a long-standing member of the SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) both in the USA and the UK. This membership inspired me to establish a small, successful Children’s Writers’ Group in Oxford which meets regularly to “talk shop”. Since I had worked extensively with Traveller children, one of my six published non-fiction books A Traveller Child describes their lifestyle. A Circus Child describes the skills of circus children. Four of my other books are on Jewish subjects. Mazal Tov – A Jewish Wedding is based on my own personal experience and Angels, Prophets, Rabbis and Kings which is a selection of Jewish traditional tales and legends from the earliest times and Country Fact Files - Israel is one of a series commissioned by Macdonald Young Books.
No Buts, Becky! is my first venture into fiction and was inspired by the stories of my grandmother’s era as well as the Jewish immigrant family of the East End of London. A visit to my grandmother would be sure to include wedding gossip about the success – or otherwise! – of the efforts of the Jewish matchmaker. This custom always intrigued me and sparked the original idea for my novel. No visit to her would be complete without tasting the delights of Jewish cooking especially eating a traditional slow cooked beef stew called ‘cholent’ which, as you will see, takes rather an important role in the novel!