Looking for Me: ...in This Great Big Family

by Betsy Rosenthal

A poignant and historical novel in verse about a Jewish family of twelve children told from the point of view of “just plain Edith, number four” as she tries to figure out her place in both her family and the world at large. Set in the depression era Baltimore, Looking for Me is filled with the joy, pain, humor, and sadness of a real immigrant family pursuing the American dream.

  • Format: Paperback
  • ISBN-13/ EAN: 9780544022713
  • ISBN-10: 0544022718
  • Pages: 176
  • Publication Date: 09/10/2013
  • Carton Quantity: 24

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About the Book
About the Author
Excerpts
Reviews
  • About the Book

    One of twelve siblings growing up in Depression-era Baltimore, Edith isn’t quite sure of who she is. Between working at her father’s diner, taking care of her younger siblings, and living in the shadow of her more mature sisters, she feels lost in a sea of siblings. When a kind teacher encourages Edith to be a teacher herself one day, Edith sees prospects for a future all her own. Full of joy, pain, humor, and sadness, this novel in verse is an enduring portrait of one family’s pursuit of the American dream.

  • About the Author
  • Excerpts
    Edith of No Special Place

    I’m just plain Edith.
    I’m number four,
    and should anyone care,
    I’m eleven years old,
    with curly black hair.

    Squeezed / between /two / brothers,
    Daniel and Ray,
    lost in a crowd,
    will I ever be more
    than just plain Edith,
    who’s number four?

    In my overcrowded family
    I’m just another face.
    I’m just plain Edith
    of no special place.

    Always One More

    I saw these wooden nesting dolls in a store,
    the kind where you don’t know how many dolls
    there are altogether until you start
    opening them up,
    and there’s always
    one more inside,
    sort of like
    my family.

    Family Portrait, Baltimore, 1936

    We’re lined up:
    girl boy, girl boy, girl boy, girl boy, girl boy,

    and in the middle of us all, Dad,
    who ordered us to smile
    right before the Brownie clicked,
    standing stiff as a soldier,
    no smile on his face,

    and Mom’s beside him,
    a baby in her arms
    and in her rounded belly
    another one,

    just a trace.

    Inspector Bubby

    When Mom goes to the hospital
    to have this new baby,
    us older kids
    watch the younger ones
    and keep the house clean.

    We think we’re doing okay

    until Dad’s mother, Bubby Anne,
    comes over
    and runs her finger across the top
    of the china cabinet
    that we couldn’t even reach,

    just to show us the dust
    we’ve left behind.

    There Goes That Theory

    Nobody asked my opinion
    about having another sister or brother.
    But if someone had,

    I would have asked
    for another little sister,
    even though I was sure

    this new baby
    in Mom’s belly
    had to be a boy.

    How could I be so sure?
    Because the last girl she had
    was my sister Annette.

    Sometime after Annette came along,
    Mom collapsed
    and Dad rushed her to the hospital,

    where they took out one of her ovaries
    (part of her baby-making equipment,
    Bubby Anne told us).

    So my sisters and I thought
    it must have been
    the girl-making one

    because since the surgery
    Mom has had nothing but boys —
    my brothers Lenny, Melvin, Sol, and Jack.

    But now this baby in Mom’s belly
    turned out to be Sherry.
    And that’s the end

    of our ovary theory.

    Now We’re Even

    Maybe Mom and Dad
    wanted one last one
    to even things up.
    With six boys
    and now six girls,
    maybe they’re done.

    I guess there’s really
    no way of knowing,
    but I sure hope
    our family’s
    all done growing.

    Some People Don’t Understand
    About a Big Family

    My friends Connie and Eunice
    love coming to my house.
    To them it seems like
    we’re always having a party.

    But I’d rather go to their houses,
    where there’s room to move around
    without bumping into anybody

    and you never
    have to stand in line
    to use the bathroom.

    I Wonder What It Would Be Like

    To sleep by myself
    in this bed
    that holds three
    with all of the covers
    to cover
    just me.

    To spread my arms wide
    and lie
    at a slant
    with no other bodies
    to say
    that I can’t.

    To lie
    on a pillow,
    no feet in my face;
    I’d lie awake nights
    just feeling the space.

    Keeping the Days Straight

    Since it’s summertime
    and we aren’t back in school yet,
    I keep forgetting what day it is.

    So my brother Raymond
    teaches me the trick
    of checking what Mom’s making for dinner.

    Mondays are milkhik, Tuesdays, liver;
    Wednesdays are macaroni casserole days,
    Thursdays are meat,
    and Fridays we eat a Shabbos feast
    of chicken, chopped liver, and soup.
    Saturdays we have what’s left,
    and Sundays Dad brings home deli.

    So the day of the week
    all depends
    on what’s inside my belly.

    Why Can’t Summer Last
    Forever?

    Summer means
    we’re outside,
    trying to cool off.
    So my little brother Melvin
    grabs my hand
    and we run by the garden hose
    that Mom’s waving around.
    We scream with glee
    as she hoots and sprays us
    with its misty breath.

    Summer means
    trips to the shore with Dad,
    where we all play tag
    with the waves
    and build castles in the sand
    and then, on the way home,
    stop for kosher dogs,
    lathered with mustard,
    like shaving cream on a man’s face.

    Summer means
    matinees at the Roxy Theatre
    on weekdays,
    not just weekends,
    and taking my brothers and sisters
    to the park
    to play dodge ball
    and horseshoes
    and hum in the kazoo band.

    Why can’t summer last forever?

    Lucky Lenny

    Last Sunday
    when Dad took us to swim in the bay
    at Workmen’s Circle Lodge,
    my little brother Lenny slipped
    on a plum pit in the pavilion
    and broke both his legs.

    He’s in the hospital now,
    getting loads of comic books,
    marbles, and card games
    and more candy buttons and chocolate licorice
    than he could ever eat,
    and the nurses are fluffing up his pillows
    and bringing him grape soda all the time.
    He’s even making new friends,
    playing war and go fish
    with the man in the next bed.

    Today when we went to swim,
    I looked as hard as I could
    for my own
    plum pit.

    One Summer Night

    My little sister Marian is missing again,
    so Dad packs some of us into his Hudson
    (we can’t all fit)
    and we drive around until we finally find Marian
    in the park,
    bouncing her little paddle board and ball,
    not even noticing the dark
    at all.

    When we get home,
    Dad uses Marian’s paddle,
    but not on the ball,
    and she doesn’t act like she’s sorry
    at all.

    Goodbye to Summer

    When Dad’s mother, Bubby Anne,
    gives us all pairs of new socks
    to wear to school,
    it’s time to say goodbye to summer.

    When Mom’s mom, Bubby Etta,
    reaches into her shopping bag
    full of crayons, jacks, and candy
    and hands each of us
    "a little something special
    to start off the new school year,"
    it’s time to say goodbye to summer.But I wish it wasn’t.
    Now I’ll have to go to school all day
    instead of swimming
    at the Patterson Park pool
    and playing stickball
    with Daniel and his friends
    and taking Melvin to the Roxy
    to see the Popeye cartoons.I’ll have to get up early,
    even before the sun rubs the sleep
    out of its eyes.
    I’ll have to face math tests
    and spelling bees and homework
    and the weather will turn dreary
    and stormy like in a scary movie.I know it’s time to say goodbye to summer,
    but I’d much rather be saying hello.
  • Reviews
    "Rosenthal's spare writing superbly captures the emotional growth of a girl on the cusp of adolescence, despite its specific historical context."--School Library Journal "The overall tone is one of solidarity in spite of difficulties."--Booklist
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