What are your favorite friendships in stories? I love Anne and Diana, Emily and Ilse, Ramona and Howie (and so many others). Making and keeping friends is so obviously the biggest drama of a child's life—yet somehow so many of our MG books brush over this element in favor of "bigger" or more "mature" issues. So when I find a good friendship story, one that can really pinpoint those real-life dramas, I am inclined to sing about it from the rooftops.
Today's Marvelous Middle Grade Monday feature is Honey and Me, by Meira Drazin, a contemporary friendship and just-beginning-to-come-of-age story about two Orthodox Jewish girls and their families. I was completely sucked in by the excellent character development and the heart-warming and heart-wrenching situations Milla and Honey got themselves into.
Here's the publisher's description:
Everything seems easy for eleven-year-old Honey Wine. Her best friend, Milla Bloom, envies Honey’s confidence, her beauty, and her big, chaotic, loving family—especially when they provide a welcome escape from Milla’s own silent house. The girls do everything and go everywhere together. But how long can Milla live in Honey’s shadow?
Set in a Modern Orthodox Jewish community in an American suburb, Honey and Mefollows Milla and Honey through the course of the school year (and the holidays of the Jewish calendar) as they encounter dramas large and small: delivering meals to their crazy-old-lady neighbor, accidentally choosing the same topic for their school’s public speaking contest, the death of a beloved teacher, and more. Threaded throughout is Milla’s complicated relationship with her mother, and her longing to feel as adored and special as Honey seems.
It would be obvious to call this the modern All-of-a-kind Family, but I did love the similar way the story is structured around the feasts of the Jewish year—as a Catholic, my life is often structured around feasts and liturgical seasons, so it felt familiar, and I loved it. (I also could relate to many of Milla's experiences growing up in a very traditional family—her comment, "I know it's a sundress, but I can wear a t-shirt under it," made me nod in recognition.) I am more inclined to compare Honey and Me to Ramona Quimby… the spot-on character development and little conflicts within school, home, and friendships, reminded me of Beverly Cleary's subtle storytelling.
As you can see in the photo, I read a library copy, but this is a definite must-purchase for my home library. I can't wait to share it with my kids!
For more Marvelous Middle Grade Monday recommendations, visit Always in the Middle.
3/13/2023 05:16:45 am
I grew up Jewish, though not Orthodox, so this sounds like a book I'd like. Thanks for featuring it this week.
3/13/2023 04:28:04 pm
Love the way you described the plot of this contemporary story. The characters and the focus on friendship make it a must read for me. Thanks for featuring your review on this week's MMGM.
3/13/2023 05:28:24 pm
Having a very best friend is so important to grls. I love that the girls are Jewish, as it will be fun to read about culture/traditions. But like you, Diana and Anne are my favorite best friend stories. Nice to see a book that has that same kind of friendship. Also enjoy the contemporary plot as it makes it even more relevant..
Max @ Completely Full Bookshelf
3/13/2023 07:23:11 pm
I haven't seen this book before, but it looks like such a wonderful read—the emphasis on friendship struggles is definitely something so many young readers (and frankly, older readers too) will relate too! I also haven't seen many stories about Orthodox Jewish characters, and the variety of other topics this story explores sound compelling as well. Thanks so much for the wonderful review, Faith!
3/14/2023 11:41:58 am
This sounds an endearing story about friendship and family. I love the fact the girls are Orthodox Jews, makes me really want to read the book. Thanks for sharing!
3/14/2023 06:45:39 pm
True friendship stories are a real gift. This sounds like a good one. I'll keep my eye out for this one. Thanks for the post.
3/15/2023 01:31:06 pm
I love a good friendship story too, so thank you for putting a spotlight on Honey and Me. I almost spilled me tea over the name Honey Wine! I do so love all the bee references in liturgy (Candlmas, Exultet, hehe).
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Hi! I'm Faith. I blog about books and creativity, family and faith. Welcome!