For all of you adults and teens and older middle grade readers who have loved Little House on the Prairie and hoped for a wider perspective on that time period and setting, I have a lovely book for you today!
A Sky Full of Song is the story of a Jewish family that flees persecution in Ukraine to make a new life on the North Dakota prairie. The middle child of five, Shoshana struggles with fitting in in her new school and new life, and wonders if it would be best to hide their Jewish heritage from her new schoolmates and friends.
Here’s the publisher’s description:
After fleeing persecution in the Russian Empire, eleven-year-old Shoshana and her family, Jewish immigrants, start a new life on the prairie. Shoshana takes fierce joy in the wild beauty of the plains and the thrill of forging a new, American identity. But it’s not as simple for her older sister, Libke, who misses their Ukrainian village and doesn’t pick up English as quickly or make new friends as easily. Desperate to fit in, Shoshana finds herself hiding her Jewish identity in the face of prejudice, just as Libke insists they preserve it.
For the first time, Shoshana is at odds with her beloved sister, and has to look deep inside herself to realize that her family’s difference is their greatest strength. By listening to the music that’s lived in her heart all along, Shoshana finds new meaning in the Jewish expression all beginnings are difficult , as well as in the resilience and traditions her people have brought all the way to the North Dakota prairie.
This book is spectacularly written; highly compelling, deeply moving. I loved learning more about what it would have looked like for a Jewish family to transport their customs and traditions to the New World. Shoshana is a complex and very likeable character, and I loved the big family interaction with her siblings (super cute literary toddlers are my favorite).
I would give a content warning before you hand this to young readers who loved Little House and want more of the same. The content is definitely more intense than anything you’d encounter in Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books, particularly the depictions of the violent persecution Shoshana and her family experience both in Ukraine and North Dakota. There are also a few scenes revolving around Libke getting her first period, and she and Shoshana are very scared until their mother explains what’s going on; while ultimately their mother’s explanation is very positive, I wouldn’t want my young reader to read the “scary” descriptions if we hadn’t had a chance to discuss this together yet. (I did wonder why the mother in the book wouldn’t have prepared Libke for her first period, and it seemed a little bit forced to add drama.) I’ll be handing this off to my 12+ readers, but your children may be ready at a different age.
For more Marvelous Middle Grade Monday recommendations, check out Always in the Middle!
Hi! I'm Faith. I blog about books and creativity, family and faith. Welcome!