Well, they can’t all be winners. It would have been nice if this were a good book, because anything American Girl is wildly popular, but I’d have to say Candelight for Rebecca was marginal at best. There are conflicting messages about how to handle forced compliance to societal and religious norms. Sprinkled throughout are random Yiddish words to try to give this weak story some authenticity (seriously, they don’t use Rosh Hashanah and instead write Jewish New Year, but Bubbie tells her to nosh on a latke). And of course, there’s the scene where Rebecca’s sister says “Our friends at school say Hanukkah isn’t a very important holiday for Jews, but Christmas is the most important holiday for Christians.” Um. Were those people perhaps other Jews? Reminding you that Hanukkah is a minor festival compared to the High Holy Days and Passover? Rebecca’s sisters are fourteen, it seems really unlikely that they would be at all confused about the relative importance of various Jewish holidays.
At school Rebecca and some of her Jewish friends are faced with a dilemma. They are being made to make a Christmas centerpiece. When one of the Jewish girls shares that she does not celebrate Christmas, the teacher dismisses this immediately saying “Christmas is a national holiday, celebrated by Americans all over the country.” This is likely in keeping with the time period of the early twentieth century. But while Rebecca’s friend shrugs and sort of slaps together the centerpiece, Rebecca does her absolute best. When it’s time to bring it home, she’s filled with guilt and shame, after all, at home Rebecca is shushed for singing Jingle Bells (a Christmas song says her grandmother). And her sisters are told to take red ribbons strung with bells out of their hair. But no, her family is so happy for her and pleased with the centerpiece. Although she does give it to a Christian neighbor as a gift, the message seems clear: assimilation is best. Yick.
Like many American Girl doll books, this could be read by an advanced second grader, and certainly by a third grader. There is a glossary in the back for the Yiddish words.
Sex, Nudity, Dating – A cat has kittens.
Profanity – None.
Death, Violence and Gore – None.
Drugs, Alcohol and Smoking – None.
Frightening or Intense Things – None.