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Lost and Found and other stories

Merkos L'Inyonei Chinuch

Feisty, quick witted, and strong-minded heroines take center stage in Lost and Found, a collection of short stories for preteens, that whisks the reader on a magic carpet ride through Jewish history. The tales feature young women who learn Talmud, pacify tyrannical overlords with four well chosen words, and stand up for character. In other sections, modern day high school students get tangled in a conflict between the pull of popularity and the call of their conscience. On other pages, shipwrecks, bandits, hidden treasure, and holy rabbis who penetrate the hearts of coarse landlords with wit and wisdom have their moments in the spotlight. Accounts of the quirky, true twists of fate that shaped the family tree of one of Judaism’s most respected scholars populate the other stories. It is rare to find classic Jewish stories that feature strong young women as protagonists. As the mother of six daughters – and two sons – and as a long - time educator of young girls, author Rachel Yaffe came naturally to casting young women into starring roles. Yaffe’s work is refreshing and speaks adroitly to the needs and aspirations of young Jewish women today. Author Rachel Yaffe drew from her own moving history to write the first story, Estherke, which plunges into the uncertain terrible days of World War II. Thrust into the arms of strangers as the Nazi hordes approached, will Estherke’s Jewish identity survive? Each story is painted in vivid detail – the scent of the marketplace, the nap of a nobleman’s silken cloak – without letting descriptions bog down the snap and rhythm of each piece. With a skillful hand Yaffe constructs a world that envelops the reader in the sights, tastes, and smells of each setting. Yaffe said she was conscious of the need to invent an environment that avid readers could sink their imaginations into. "I’ve seen my granddaughter become absorbed in the lives of Little Women, and I wanted to create a Jewish world of reading for her to enjoy," Yaffe said in a recent interview. Richly evocative watercolor illustrations by highly regarded illustrator Bryna Waldman heighten the sense of wonder in each story. In Lost and Found, Waldman’s paintings draw the reader deeper into the stories by adding charming details that bring the characters’ everyday settings to life. As in most Jewish stories for children, there are morals to be gleaned from each story. Will good deeds be rewarded? Can the true of heart live in the real world? Can the wealth of Torah study be measured in gleaming currency? The fun of Lost and Found is that the lessons spell themselves out without being overbearing.