Title: Catch that Crook!
By Sara Miriam Gross
This new book contains not one, but two “History Mysteries.” Both stories and gripping page turners that originally appeared in The Jewish Press.
In the first, Mystery at the Manor, our heroes, Avi and Shlomo, help the elderly men in Chayim Manor nursing home retain their rights to properties that their families one owned in Poland. The exciting adventure story takes the reader to Europe and follows the trail left by the crooks. Avi and his grandfather frustrate the devious plans of Thomasz and bring evil to justice.
In the second, Secrets in Tzefas, the same heroes incredibly and repeatedly side-step the police who have wrongly suspected them of the theft of an ancient Sefer Torah. Even as they manage to get soaking wet and lost in the narrow alleyways of Tzefas, and cause quite a commotion in a tomato sauce factory, they are able to reveal the Torah’s true identity and past. The surprise ending neatly pulls together the multi-threaded plot.
The stories are well-crafted and just challenging enough to keep the reader in suspense until the very last page is turned. Avi and Shlomo will remind Yeshiva kids of their own friends next door, and their emotions and conversations are realistically portrayed. The lightly sprinkled humor makes the book an enjoyable read for its intended audience.
However, what makes Catch That Crook! stand out on the bookshelf of new books is the historical research that went into the writing. Even after the reader sits back contentedly on the couch with a smile, mystery solved, he is left with much more than a typical fast-paced kid’s read because the book contains very gripping and relevant information about the historical events and sites on which the stories are based.
Mystery at the Manor gives the reader insight into the painful reality caused by Polish government’s law passed in 2021 that states that former owners can no longer claim property from before the Holocaust. It is for this reason that Avi is a real hero in thwarting the criminals. Secrets in Tzefas is based on a true account about a sefer Torah which was purchased at an estate auction, and about the non-Jews who preserved old Torah scrolls in Europe.
In basing her stories on the world’s realities Sara Miriam Gross educates her readers without being didactic. She treats her readers respectfully, gently sharing with them scenes of antisemitism, blackmail, the power of tefillah and respect for elders and many real Jewish values.
This is historical fiction at its best. Young readers will enjoy the book immensely – if their parents put it down long enough to give them the chance.
Catch That Crook! is Sara Miriam Gross’ latest book for children ages 9-12. Great gift! Available in your local Jewish bookstore, menuchapublishers.com, or on Amazon.