Troubador My Aunt Manya

Released: 28/01/2016

ISBN: 9781785890321

eISBN: 9781785894138

Format: Paperback/eBook

Review this Book

My Aunt Manya

Based on a True Story

by

My Aunt Manya is a period novel set in Russia at the end of the 19th century. The heroine, ten-year-old Sarah, lives unhappily with her much-hated stepmother. Sarah’s father has gone to live in New York with his sister Manya while he looks for a job. Sarah’s life changes overnight when Aunt Manya writes with news that her father has been killed in an accident. She sends her a boat ticket, some money and an offer of a home. Sarah’s family and friends are poor, Yiddish-speaking Russian Jews. Their lives are in constant danger from Cossacks – cruel Russian soldiers who, without warning, kill innocent Jews in attacks called Pogroms. When Sarah’s friends get word that a group of Cossacks is camped nearby, they lose no time in helping her to set out alone on the longest journey of her young life. My Aunt Manya is a heart-warming story of Sarah’s journey to America on the ‘other side of the world.’ She becomes an immigrant with just one goal – to live with her Aunt Manya in a free country. Sarah faces difficulties and dangers of the unknown with great courage and determination which, together with the hand of fate, combine to make this an unforgettable story. Readers aged 9-11 years who love adventure will be captivated by Sarah’s bravery.

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.

The School Librarian

Chanukah Review

Association of Jewish Libraries Review

The Jewish Book Council

Jewish Chronicle

The Bookseller Children's Buyers Guide

That's Books and Entertainment

The book is about an 11-year old girl called Sarah who has to travel to America to join her Aunt Manya because her parents have died. It tells the story of a brave young girl and her adventures through a forest, across the Atlantic Ocean and much more. She travels on her own, but meets lots of kind friends. We learn about how Sarah feels when she goes on the long, difficult journey and what it must have been like for the thousands of other people who made a similar journey. Through the book, we also learn some Yiddish words – one that's particularly relevant to the book is the word 'beshert' meaning 'destiny'. One feature in the book that I especially liked is the imaginary letter to Aunt Manya at the end of each chapter where Sarah opens up her feelings. The book is a gripping read – as soon as one adventure is over, another one starts. The whole book builds up to Sarah seeing Aunt Manya but there is a surprise at the end. I would recommend this book to any 8-12 year old child who loves a good story!

by Tabitha


"My Aunt Manya" is an engaging tale of a very brave little girl who escapes the pogroms threatening her small town in Russia and makes it to New York to start her new life. Though it is written at a level perfect for the older elementary school aged child, it is also a wonderful story for readers of all ages! The story has strong characters, good people who help others. Sarah, the main character, is a positive, clever and kind girl, but shown also are her very real moments of sadness, frustration, and loneliness. "My Aunt Manya" is realistic yet optimistic. It's the kind of book you'll be happy to share with your kids and grandkids.

by Laurie R.


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


José Patterson

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!

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