Penina Levine is a Potato Pancake

Penina Levine Is a Potato Pancake by Rebecca O’Connell

Plenty of girls will find it easy to relate to Penina Levine, whether or not they are Jewish.  She’s a procrasinator and has left her Hanukkah gift-making until the very last minute.  She’s absolutely sick to death of her adorable younger sister Mimi who seems to get all the attention and she’s devastated that her best friend is headed to Aruba over winter break leaving her with no one to spend time with.   Penina is in sixth grade and fully exhibits the melodrama and self-absorption of that age but mostly in a charming way.

Sometimes Penina seems a bit young for her age, and considering the content, this book could certainly be enjoyed by grades 3 and up and certainly as a read aloud to younger children.

tsimmes: mess
tsuris: trouble
tzedakah: in the context used here, they are referring to a tzedakah box which is where they place money that is being given to charity (in this case an animal shelter).

Sex, Nudity, Dating – A sixth-grader is buying a bikini.
Profanity – None.
Death, Violence and Gore – The story of Hanukkah is told.  The fighting is referred to as guerilla warfare and it mentions sneak attacks, hand to hand fighting and that “anyone caught being Jewish was killed.”  Zozo’s dad died when she was a baby.
Drugs, Alcohol and Smoking – Penina and Zozo pretend they are blowing smoke rings and Zozo says that her mother has promised to teacher her how to blow them for real once she is 21.  Zozo’s mother is a former smoker.
Frightening or Intense Things – A teacher has to leave to go take care of her sister who is ill.

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