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

by Betsy R. 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

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
Betsy R. Rosenthal

Before she began writing children’s books, Betsy Rosenthal was a lawyer for a national civil rights agency. She left that career behind to raise her three children and concentrate on her writing. She is the author of three picture books: My House Is Singing, It’s Not Worth Making a Tzimmes Over!, and Which Shoes Would You Choose? Looking for Me is her first novel.Ms. Rosenthal has also had many essays published in national and local newspapers and magazines. To learn more about Ms. Rosenthal, you can visit her at www.BetsyRosenthal.com.


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


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.


"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