Robin Friedman‘s “The importance of wings” won the Sydney Taylor Book Awards for younger teens. As such, I, being couple of decades over my teen years wasn’t part of the target audience. Therefore my initial reactions, when I was reading the book may not be entirely counted upon when judging the book. Nevertheless I was wondering whether it was a good idea to set a book for 14 year olds in the 1980s. It is full of cultural references, mostly TV show reruns, that are not on the daily/weekly rotation any more, thus today’s teens have little connections to them. Wonder women and the Brady Bunch as cultural reference points are nearly not as universal any more as they were 20-30 years ago. The author was aware of these possible objections as on the very last pages she explains her reasoning for the setting the book in this era. That includes personal (she grew up then) and two kinds of nostalgia for simplicity: technical, the simpler times before internet and texting and political, the pre 9/11 era, when the Middle East situation seemed simpler. These are valid reasons, but I still wonder whether the setting will be an obstacle for the book becoming wildly successful.
I ask this, because otherwise it has the potential to be a hit. It is an inspirational story from going a couch potato with low self-esteem and worrying about unimportant things, to being an active person who stands up for herself and focuses on more important things, while having fun too. In the center of the story is an Isreali girl, who lives with his sister and overworking father in the US, while the mom is back in Israel taking care of her sister. The girls’ life is filled with eating junk food, watching TV and trying to look cool in other people’s eyes. All this changes when a girl moves with her colorful family to the neighboring house. She is a very different kind of Israeli, who instead of trying to fit in, does what she wants, while staying respectful and strong. She becomes the role model that makes our heroines reevaluate what’s important: wings of hair or being honest to themselves and others.
That’s the story’s essence, but of course many more activities are happening on the book’s 170 pages. One of the funniest and most funny aspect of the book is the short lists the protagonist reverts to every time she has to make a decision or take stock of her own feelings. These lists are set in a different typography than the rest of the book and pop out from the rest of the text as testaments of the heroine’s thoughts.
Despite the reservation I mentioned above I like this book and can recommend it. I think it can be of great help for young girls and can teach a few things about themselves and Israel too.