The children’s writing world has lost another champion at the recent passing of Paula Cohen Martin. As sad as that is, it is sadder still that she died before she was able to bring her first picture book out into the world. Her stories and amazing illustrations will live on.
To honor her memory and help her book reach the population of the young children she loved, It is my honor to feature the book on today’s blog.
In the new country, Shirley and her family all have big dreams. Take the family store: Shirley has great ideas about how to make it more modern! Prettier! More profitable! She even thinks she can sell the one specialty no one seems to want to try: Mama’s homemade gefilte fish.
But her parents think she’s too young to help. And anyway they didn’t come to America for their little girl to work. “Go play with the cat!” they urge.
This doesn’t stop Shirley’s ideas, of course. And one day, when the rest of the family has to rush out leaving her in the store with sleepy Mrs. Gottlieb, Shirley seizes her chance!
BIG FISH, SMALL DREAMS is a love letter to the American Ashkenazi immigrant experience in the 20th century, no small part of which entailed girls finding their voices and their power in ways they had never before been able to do. Protagonist Shirley, with a good head on her shoulders, is one of those girls. Paula was eager to include Yiddish in her text and to make sure it was as authentic and historically accurate as her images. It is a delight to read and a wonderful way to remember her.
Here is a review from PUBLISHER’S WEEKLY: