By: Betty Rosenberg Perlov
Illustrated by: Cosei Kawa
Publisher: Kar-Ben Publishing
Publication Date: August 2013
Reviewed by: Deb Fowler
Review Date: November 2013
Mama and Papa looked so very different when they put on their makeup. Rifka smiled in amazement as they turned into old people. They really weren’t old, but rather they were “actors in the Yiddish Theater.” When they took her to work, they rode the subway to Union Square where they would begin their walk to the theater. They would “stop at the Automat for a snack” on their way. Mama and Papa smiled as they watched Rifka stand on a bench to reach that big piece of cherry pie. Yum! Walking to the theater was interesting, but when they reached The Grand, a theater on Second Avenue, the fun began.
Rifka’s eyes grew wide as Mama became different characters. Papa too. Who was that man with the little glasses and the big, long beard? Now that’s what Rifka wanted to know. “Piff-Paff! Not to worry. I am really your papa. How else would I know your name is Rifkeleh?” She whirled through the dressing rooms (no swearing!) and peeked out onto the stage as she waited for the plays to begin. Underneath that stage it was a bit scary though with all those props. Papa told her all about how actors did special things during plays, but what was he going to say when she accidentally stepped out on that stage during a performance?
This is a fun and fascinating look at Rifka and her surprise performance in a Yiddish theater. Of course Rifka’s experiences are fictional, but we are treated to a rare glimpse back in time through the eyes of Betty Rosenberg Perlov, who grew up in the theater. Her “real” story, along with photographs, is in the back of the book. The artwork is bold, bright, and delightfully whimsical as it captures the aura surrounding Yiddish theater. One of the interesting things children will marvel at are the tricks that Papa showed Rifka. Do you know why an actor isn’t hurt when an "actor hits another actor with a loud slap?" If not, you will after you read this book!
Quill says: This is a rare glimpse into the world of Yiddish theater through the eyes of Betty Rosenberg Perlow, a woman who experienced it!