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Written by Allison & Wayne Marks
- Commended as a 2022 Sydney Taylor Award Notable Book
- A humorous, culturally Jewish story, about creativity and self-belief, difference and inclusivity, friendship and family.
Uniquely delves into and celebrates the history and tradition of Klezmer music for a young, contemporary audience.
Full of references to musicians and musical genres, it explores the universal language of music and its ability to unite people.
Benny Feldman spends his days at Sieberling School obeying his number-one rule for surviving sixth grade: blend into the background. So when he signs up his klezmer band to play in the school talent show, his classmates are shocked. Teased by guitar superstar and former friend Jason Conroy, Benny vows to win the trophy and erase the embarrassing nickname that has haunted him since his performance in an unforgettably disastrous first grade Sabbath play.
But, there is a problem. Benny Feldman’s All-Star Klezmer Band is only a figment of Benny’s imagination.
With the show a few months away, Benny, an accomplished fiddler, embarks on a quest to assemble a band that will beat Jason’s rock group at the talent show. His search takes him to an arcade convention, a potato chip factory, an oddities shop, and a storage room stacked with cans of creamed corn and succotash. Along the way he meets Jennifer, a jazz-loving drummer; Royce, a bow-tie-wearing clarinet prodigy; and Stuart, a braggart accordion player from Cajun Country. He also learns a great deal about the joys and sorrows that lie at the heart of klezmer and discovers that being different can be wonderful.
Eventually, the ragtag and renamed “Klez Misfits” mount the stage and the tension-filled climax will have young readers wondering until the end if Benny and his band can pull off a miracle.
Allison and Wayne Marks met in a Canterbury Tales class at the University of Cincinnati, where they both graduated with degrees in English Literature. They are the authors of three Jewish children’s picture books: Og’s Ark (Kar-Ben 2016, PJ Library in Russian selection), A Gefilte Fishy Tale (MB Publishing, 2016), and The Art Lesson: A Shavuot Story (Kar-Ben 2017, PJ Library selection, Bank Street Best Children’s Books of 2017, and Tablet Magazine’s Best Jewish Children’s Books of 2017).
“This book has ‘everything’ in it! Everything wonderful! … Friendship, Judaism, life lessons, music of all kinds, angst of sixth grade first love, shyness, overcoming stage fright, honoring family, how to deal with bullies, jealousy… and even redemption. And all of this ‘wonderfulness’ is via music, and Benny’s ragtag band of friends, who come together in amazing ways. It’s about the love of music and how ‘All music is connected… and how music connects us all.’… This book is magic!” – Sydney Taylor Shmooze
“The young reader will surely enjoy this musical romp through sixth grade.” – Association of Jewish Libraries
“Benny Feldman’s All-Star Klezmer Band is intelligent, heartwarming and funny; it subtly introduces the reader not only to klezmer but also to the Jewish contribution to music, from Yip Harbury to Pink” – Angela Kiverstein, The Jewish Chronicle
Benny Feldman is a wonderful reminder that authors need not limit themselves to the most easily identified cultural references when writing for children…. The story of Benny and his friends proves how middle-grade fiction can be versatile, delivering believable characters in accessible situations that appeal to readers, while also opening a window to new worlds. While klezmer music may not be central to most children’s lives today, after reading this book, they may want to download Abe Schwartz and his orchestra’s rendition of “Tantz, Tantz, Yiddelech… This recommended story includes a helpful glossary of “Klezmer Terms”.’ – Emily Schneider, Jewish Book Council
Shy Benny Feldman signs up his imaginary klezmer band to play in the school talent show, then must put together a real band in this hilarious and touching story of building friendships’ – Association of Jewish Libraries, Top 100 Jewish Children’s Books