HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: Alan and Naomi
Author: Myron Levoy
Publisher: iUniverse, republished 2007
Language level: 3
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing and/or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing and/or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Recommended reading level: Ages 9 – 12
Rating: *** 3 stars
(5 stars=EXCELLENT; 4 stars=GOOD; 3 stars=FAIR; 2 stars=POOR; 1 star=VERY POOR; no stars=NOT RECOMMENDED)
Category: Historical fiction
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Levoy, Myron. Alan and Naomi (Published in 1977 by Harper Trophy, an imprint of HarperCollins Children’s Books, a division of HarperCollins Publishers Inc., 30 E. 53rd St., New York City, NY 10022). It is 1944 and twelve and a half year old Alan Silverman, a Jewish boy, lives with his father Sol and mother Ruth in a New York City apartment at The Oak Terrace Arms. Alan’s best friend at junior high school and in the neighborhood is Shaun Kelly, who is also the captain of Alan’s stickball team. Joe Condello, captain of the other team, is prejudiced against Jews. Naomi Kirshenbaum, a Jewish girl who is a refugee from France, and her mother live with the Silvermans’ friends and neighbors, Mr. and Mrs. Liebman. The girl is severely disturbed emotionally because she saw her father brutally beaten and murdered by the Nazis. The other kids call her crazy. Alan’s parents ask him to befriend Naomi and spend time with her to see if he can help her calm down.
Alan says no at first. He doesn’t want to give up his stickball game for anyone—especially not for crazy-acting Naomi, and he’s afraid that the other boys will call him a sissy. But when he hears about her horrifying experience during the war in France, he changes his mind and agrees to try. What can Alan do to win Naomi’s trust? Will his efforts accomplish any good for the girl? And how does the whole situation affect his friendship with Shaun? There is a really good story here with important lessons concerning the importance of empathy, the dangers of prejudice, and the value of true friendship. Unfortunately, it is marred by some bad language. For example, it is noted that Alan and Shaun “told each other the latest dirty jokes circulating around the class.”
However, that is not the worst of it. There is something annoying and even disconcerting about reading literature intended for ages 9-12 in which twelve year old boys toss around the “h” and “d” words and near-vulgarisms like “son of a b****” and “bas*ard” as if handing out candy. Alan even says the “h” word to his mother. “What in the he** do you want from me?” Yes, I know that people, even kids, talk like that, but I don’t think that it needs to be enshrined in “children’s books.” Alan and Naomi is said to have won several awards. Oh yes, that’s right! Nowadays the more cursing and profanity a work of youth fiction has, the more likely it is to be given a prize. Another reviewer wrote, “Not for young readers, 16+ only.” There is a touch of sadness at the end, but it concludes on a hopeful note.