children, history, tween

Mrs. Kaputnik’s Pool Hall and Matzo Ball Emporium

Author: Rona Arato
Publisher: Tundra Books
Genre: Kids
ISBN: 978-0-88776-967-2
Pages: 192
Price: $9.95

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Moshe Kapustin has no idea he’s just traded his family’s firewood for a pet dragon, when he receives the mysterious egg from the peddler. But when the dragon, Snigger, saves them from the Cossacks and allows them to leave Russia for a new life in America, the family decides he will have to come with them. So they depart for New York on a quest to find their father, who has already arrived in America five years earlier.

A mistake at Ellis Island changes the family name to Kaputnik, and life becomes challenging as they adjust to life in New York. In 1898, immigrants faced hardship and struggle in their new country, but when you also have a dragon, things get even more complicated. Somehow, just as in Russia, Snigger seems to have a knack for making things better.

Mrs. Kaputnik’s Pool Hall and Matzo Ball Emporium is a light-hearted story of a Russian Jewish immigrant family to New York. Shoshi and Moshe want to help their mother be successful in their new country, but they also struggle with what they left behind. Living in America is so different from Russia and at times they miss their old country.

Many kids today have no idea what their immigrant ancestors faced when they came to the United States. Although this novel doesn’t paint the dire situations many had to deal with, it doesn’t show life as all rosy either. In a fun and humorous way, Rona Arato has shown us life at the turn of the last century, and given us a glimpse into our own history books. I highly recommend this delightful story.

Reviewer: Alice Berger