Coming of Age: 13 B’nai Mitzvah Stories edited by Jonathan Rosen & Henry Herz

Coming of Age: 13 B’nai Mitzvah Stories edited by Jonathan Rosen & Henry Herz. Albert Whitman & Company, 2022. 9780807536674

Rating:  1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 4

Format: Paperback ARC

Genre: Short stories

What did you like about the book?   Thirteen different authors tell 13 different stories about B’nai Mitzvah (the plural of “bar mitzvah”) – those wanted and unwanted, realistic, historical, fantastical, and even autobiographical. Antisemitism is a theme for one of the longest stories, a fictional story about a girl afraid to have her Bat Mitzvah because of past experiences. There’s a pandemic mitzvah, an outer space mitzvah on Planet Latke, and a fabulous story about time traveling back to biblical times (Noah’s Ark!) as part of the preparation for a Bar Mitzvah. Wild! 

One recurring theme is that of gratitude for the opportunity to celebrate the tradition B’nai Mitzvah at all – many stories mention the fact that the ceremony wasn’t always possible because of oppressive regimes and darker times in history. Girls didn’t always have a Bat Mitzvah either; the ceremony used to only be for boys entering Jewish adulthood. 

The many different emotions that Jewish teens may feel at this important milestone are explored in this story collection. Essential purchase for all elementary and middle school collections, especially in communities with large Jewish populations. 

Anything you did not like about the book? No. The variety of stories was nice and they were all short and easy to read. 

To whom would you recommend this book? Students who are approaching their own B’nai Mitzvah or supporting friends who are anticipating the ritual. 

Who should buy this book? All public, elementary, and middle school libraries. Perfect for ages 9+.

Where would you shelve it?  Short stories or in the 800s of nonfiction

Should we (librarians) put this on the top of our “to read” piles?  No

Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City:  Laura Gardner, Dartmouth Middle School, Dartmouth, MA

Date of review: January 24, 2022

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