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.
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!