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Zayda Was a Cowboy

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*Starred Review* Gr. 4-7." In a chatty, immediate idiom, Zayda (Yiddish for grandfather tells his grandkids his immigration story from the turn of the twentieth century: how, as a teenager anxious to avoid lifelong conscription into the czar's army, he left his family in a shtetl, travelled across Europe, and came to America on a hellishly crowded boat. But, surprisingly, the ship lands not at Ellis Island, but at Galveston, Texas, where he takes an American name and gets a job as a cowboy on a ranch. He's a lonely Jewish boy who misses his mama and hisshul, but he is also a hard worker, on the ranch and on the trail driving cattle. The facts of cowboy work will fascinate kids, as will the seldom-told immigration story, which took place before the time of immigration quotas, when America needed hard workers no matter where they came from. Zayda is frank about the people displaced, and aghast about the treatment of the Indians, who were relocated in a "shocking chapter of American history." An epilogue fills in more history about bringing Jews out west, and a bibliography and a glossary conclude. This will make a great read-aloud; the story will interest kids no matter what their religious background. Hazel Rochman
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