Friday, August 16, 2013

Rifka Takes a Bow, by Betty Rosenberg Perlov (illustrations by Cosei Kawa)

Rifka Takes a Bow

Author: Betty Rosenberg Perlov 
Illustrator: Cosei Kawa
Publisher: Kar-Ben Publishing
Publication Date: August 1, 2013 
This book doesn't come out until August 2013 (I'm writing this in May) but I'm already going to go talk to the children's department at my local library to ask them to order it for their collection. This book is an amazing find. It's about a little girl (Rifka) who hangs out backstage at the Yiddish theatre where her parents are both actors. That is, until the day she accidentally walks out on stage!

It's a lovely book about the drama and excitement of theatre, the precociousness of children who find themselves at their parents' workplace, the thrill of an audience and the little known history of Jewish theatres in New York in the early part of the twentieth century. It's a story from the childhood memories of the author, who is now in her nineties. More than any of that, it's a spectacular picture book. The artwork is, well, art. It's whimsical and fluid and I can almost hear music playing when I look at it. I'm not sure if you know what I mean by that last statement, but it's like the drawings are so lively and animated that I can easily picture them being part of an animated short film. They're absolutely lovely.

The artwork also reminds me of something but I can't quite put my finger on it. It's been driving me crazy since I read this book, but I'm not sure what it is. I thought maybe I had read some other books illustrated by Cosei Kawa, but I don't think that's it. I'll definitely be seeking out future books with her illustrations though!

I also liked that the story featured a little girl who learned about the appeal of the stage without just wanting to be a ballerina or a princess. I don't mean that as an insult to ballerinas AT ALL because I know they are very hard working performers who spend years perfecting their art. But children's literature has a lot of idealized images of ballerinas already and it was nice to see a little girl in a book exploring some other aspects of performance. Rifka not only learns about acting but also costume design, set construction, etc. 

Huzzah for Rifka Takes a Bow!

Disclaimer: I received a digital galley of this book free from the publisher from NetGalley. I was not obliged to write a favourable review, or even any review at all. The opinions expressed are strictly my own.


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