Lily Goldman

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When 12-year-old Demetra “Mimi” Laskaris moves from Massachusetts to Wilford Island, a small island off Florida’s Gulf Coast, she hopes to continue her two favorite hobbies: Mimi competes as a competitive concert pianist and also loves gardening. Although her family’s new single-family home means that she can practice piano any hour of the day or night, the soil in Mimi’s new yard is different from the dirt in the community garden plot she and her dad planted in Massachusetts—and her dad has been so busy getting their family’s new restaurant up and running that he hasn’t had time to help set up their new planting beds.

With more free time than usual, Mimi begins exploring the beaches near her house. Along with seashells, she discovers trash—plastic bags and bottles, scraps of Styrofoam and more. When Mimi’s science class learns about environmental activists their own age, the lesson immediately resonates. Soon, Mimi is noticing single-use plastics everywhere and launches a campaign to ask residents of Wilford Island to commit to using only paper or reusable bags. Carmen, the most popular girl in school, becomes an early ally but a complicated new friend. Mimi also finds support from the owners of local bookstore the Dusty Jacket, who tell her about a monthly beach cleanup group and offer her advice and encouragement.  

Author Elaine Dimopoulos’ respect for young people shines on every page of Turn the Tide. Mimi’s concerns about the climate crisis and the impact it will have on her future are grounded and relatable, as are her feelings of frustration at the slow pace of progress and her despair that she’ll ever make a real difference in a global problem. But Mimi finds hope by learning more about real-life young role models, including Melati and Isabel Wijsen, who successfully campaigned to ban plastic bags from their home of Bali, Indonesia; Isra Hirsi, who co-founded the U.S. Youth Climate Strike; and Autumn Peltier, an Anishinaabe water activist in Canada.

Although Mimi’s story is fictional, Turn the Tide includes a notable amount of resources for readers inspired to take action, beginning with Melati Wijsen’s rousing foreword. Dimopoulos contributes more than 20 pages of back matter, including a fascinating timeline of plastic bag activism, a directory of youth-oriented environmental organizations, an explanation of how to conduct a weeklong personal waste audit and more. 

Written in lyrical and accessible free verse, Turn the Tide is an encouraging and stirring reminder that change is possible when we work together.

Mimi mounts a campaign against single-use plastic bags on her new island home in Florida in Elaine Dimopoulos’ Turn the Tide, a stirring novel in verse.
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Many Jewish children grow up with a distinct awareness of the darkness that exists in the world, but well-known works of Jewish American children’s literature limit their depictions of existential dangers to historical settings. Eric A. Kimmel’s Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins and Lois Lowry’s Numbers the Stars allude to genocide, while Sydney Taylor’s All-of-a-Kind Family books are about early 20th-century immigrants.

Aviva vs. the Dybbuk is one of the first middle grade novels to portray a modern-day Orthodox Jewish child. It’s the story of Aviva, who has been haunted—literally—for years by the loss of her father. There’s an empty seat at the kitchen table where her Abba should sit, and in his place, Aviva has a dybbuk, a mischievous spirit who’s always causing trouble.

Aviva lives with her mother and the dybbuk above a mikvah, a ritual bath used by Orthodox Jewish women. Although Aviva’s mother manages the mikvah, she otherwise rarely leaves their home, and she and Aviva have gradually drifted away from their friends and community, set apart by grief and the actions of the meddlesome dybbuk.

This year, everyone at school is looking forward to the Bas Mitzvah Bash, but when the principal asks Aviva and her former best friend, Kayla, to work together on the preparations, Aviva’s life becomes even more complicated. And then someone draws a pinwheel shape that Aviva’s never seen before in the wet cement of the sidewalk outside the mikvah, and everyone is suddenly very frightened . . .

Debut author Mari Lowe expertly captures the environment in which Orthodox children are raised while offering a glimpse into one family’s way forward after a tragic loss. Despite what she’s been through, Aviva still wants to play with her friends and be liked by her teachers. She feels cooped up at home, aches for an absent family member, misses her friends and begins to worry about her safety in the face of escalating threats to her community; these concerns ground the character and make her relatable. An early scene in Aviva vs. the Dybbuk highlights the key role that finding meaning in language plays in the Jewish experience, so Lowe’s inclusion of a racial slur later in the novel is notable, though some readers may feel that the scene in which it’s spoken would be impactful enough without it.

Aviva vs. the Dybbuk is deeply rooted in the specifics of Aviva’s Orthodox Jewish community, but its representation of loss, grief and healing will resonate with any reader who, like Aviva, has lost someone close to them and feels tangled up in grief.

Deeply rooted in its protagonist’s Orthodox Jewish community, Aviva vs. the Dybbuk’s depiction of grief and healing has wide appeal.

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