Looking For Me is a delightful novel in verse written for young readers by picture book author, Betsy R. Rosenthal. Rosenthal brings to life the story of her mother, Edith Paul, using both free and rhyming verse, as she tries to understand her place in the world.
The novel opens in 1936, when Edith is eleven years old, the fourth child in a Jewish family with twelve children who live in Baltimore. There are six boys and six girls in Edith's family. Edith's six grade teacher, Miss Connelly asks her students to write a poem about their families. Edith writes her poem, which is quite long due to the large number of family members including everyone but herself. When Miss Connelly questions Edith as to why she left herself out of the poem, Edith states, "Because,... I don't know who I am in my big family." Miss Connelly asks Edith to go home and think about who she is. Edith spends the next year attempting to answer that very important question.
We follow her on her journey through the year as Edith tries to understand the many things that happen to her and her family. She discovers that she's a "good little mother" to her younger siblings, but not a dancer. Just as her grandmother experienced discrimination when she lived in Russia, so too does Edith even in America.
Edith takes us through Rosh Hashanah, a school spelling bee, her 12th birthday, Christmas, and the death of a younger brother. With twelve children in the family, there's bound to be plenty of drama and disaster. From peanut butter bombs to BB pellet holes in the walls, Edith's family life is anything but boring. There are good family times, and some very sad times too. And Edith, typical of most young adolescents, struggles to understand her parents. She thinks her father doesn't like children, and watches her mother grieve over the death of her brother.
At the end of the novel, with a little bit of encouragement from her teacher, Miss Connelly, Edith has decided who she is and what she wants for her life.
This lovely short novel was very touching. I could relate to the stories Edith told because my parents grew up during the same era and like Edith's family, both my mother and father's families also suffered the loss of a child. The poem, I Wonder What It Would Be Like, is about sleeping in a bed with two other children, something very common during the early part of the last century. The poem, Always One More, talks about how Edith's large family is like the wooden nesting dolls where there's always one more inside!
The back of the book has a short Author's Note about the author's mother, Edith Paul, as well as some family pictures. This would make a great book for a Mother-Daughter book club.
Looking For Me ... in this great big family. by Betsy R. Rosenthal
New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company 2012