Mrs. Kaputnik's Pool Hall and Matzo Ball Emporium, by Rona Arato, is the story of Shoshi and Moshe Kapustin, two Russian Jewish children, and how they bought a dragon, moved to America, changed their name, found their father, and defeated a gangster.
Part fantastical, part serious, this is a book that children (it's targeted for ages 9-12) will enjoy. There are funny names (the New York Yoinkles, anyone?), a fire-breathing dragon, and a mystery that needs to be solved!
If I had to guess, I would say this is possibly targeted more towards a Jewish audience because there are a lot of Jewish words in the story, not all of which are defined (although most are). Then again, this could be a great way to introduce your children to a Jewish culture that may otherwise be foreign to them. It's also a great way to show them what immigrants went through trying to get to America in the late 1800s.
True to the general form of children's literature, most of the adults aren't that likable or helpful. The children are meant to be the heroes, and adults are little more than sideline characters (or the obstacle-setters). Shoshi and Moshe rely on their own ingenuity and courage to overcome the transition from their small village in Russia to life on New York's Lower East Side, as well as solve the mystery of their father's disappearance and defeat the gangster that's been terrorizing the neighborhood for years.
As an adult, this book didn't really move me. I thought some of the dialogue was forced and jumpy, and some of the situations just weren't believable (maybe I've seen too many movies, but what gangster would stop looking for something that had been taken from him in order to coach a baseball game?). I wasn't very fond of Mrs. Kaputnik, not that I needed to be, but I thought her exchanges with her husband weren't very believable.
3 out of 5 stars. If I was a kid, I think I would have enjoyed this book a lot more than I did and, since it's aimed at the younger audience, I feel that's more important to focus on.
This copy was sent to me by Tundra Books in association with Library Thing's Early Reviewer's program. No incentives were used to produce a positive review of this book. The release date is set for April 13, 2010.