Time traveling is a genre that many young adults enjoy. Ruth Tenzer Feldman has mastered the art of connecting different time periods. In Blue Thread, Ruth intertwines events from Oregon’s women’s suffrage movement with the daughters of Zelophehad’s struggle for women’s rights during biblical times. In her companion book, The Ninth Day, the Free Speech Movement of the 1960s is connected with 11th century Paris. In both books, the main characters (Miriam Josefsohn in Blue Thread and Hope Friis in The Ninth Day) are able to move back and forth through time by using a magical prayer shawl.
In exchange for an honest review, I received a complimentary copy of The Ninth Day. I had previously purchased Blue Thread.
Commenters to this blog will be eligible for a book giveaway. See below.
The prayer shawl has a unique blue thread that originated from the biblical Tribe of Levi. The thread has a special power that can carry a messenger across the olam (the universe). Since Miryam the biblical prophetess, did not have any children, she passed a thread onto Tirzah’s daughter, Miryam. Miriam Josefsohn traveled back to that point in time. Another thread miraculously survived until the Middle Ages and was embroidered into a prayer shawl by Rashi’s daughter.
The main characters, Miriam and Hope are descendants of Miryam. Hope is Miriam’s granddaughter. In The Ninth Day, Miriam is already deceased. Miriam and Hope’s understanding of the prayer shawl’s powers is transmitted through a mystical character named Serakh. She can travel through time without the shawl. This mysterious woman elicits Miriam and Hope’s inspiration to help women in the earlier time periods.
These strong, modern, female characters are more than capable of handling their out of the comfort zone experiences as they travel across the olam. Their flexibility enables them to adjust to their foreign surroundings and simultaneously help the women they encounter. At times the stakes are high. Hope understood the possible consequences when she thought: “So many things could go horribly wrong. When you fight fire with fire, your whole world could go up in flames.” (Page 214)
Most striking is the message that Ruth brings to her audience. She illustrates how women can use their voices and their deeds to make a difference. Sometimes the choices that the young women make run counter to public opinion. These risky endeavors are oftentimes filled with uncertain outcomes.. While Serakh is trying to calm Miriam after their first time travel, she says “… But where you are or when you are is not of great importance. They form only a tiny dot in the olam, a spark in the universe. What matters most is who you are.” (Page 67)
In both books, the travels through the olam give the main characters a new perspective on life. Near the conclusion of The Ninth Day, Hope’s thoughts come together. “That’s what my grandmother’s prayer shawl was all about pursuing justice. Sometimes you have to act. Sometimes you have to open your mouth.” (Page 218)
Tidbits of history are sprinkled throughout both books. Readers learn about basic trends and ideas associated with the time periods. This historical information adds credence to the setting while also enriching the readers understanding of history. Jewish culture and historical events are an added bonus that may or may not appeal to a secular audience. Ruth provides an Author’s Note that spells out where the line is drawn between fiction and non-fiction and also explains some Jewish terms.
These books are creative and engaging. Multiple twists and turns keep the reader engaged throughout. Ruth patiently introduces and develops the characters. The dialogue is relaxed and credible. Miriam and Hope’s relationships with others highlight their personalities. Through these interactions, the reader is able to see the girls’ strengths and weaknesses. By the end of the book, readers feel like they are walking hand-in-hand with the characters and joining them as they move through the olam. I am looking forward to future treks through the olam.
- Blue Thread- Winner, 2013 Oregon Book Award-Leslie Bradshaw Award for Young Adult Literature
Anyone who leaves a comment on this blog by Sunday, May 11 will be eligible for a book giveaway. The randomly selected winner will be sent an autographed copy of one of Ruth Tenzer Feldman’s books.
Q & A with Ruth Tenzer Feldman
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