Written by Sheri Sinykin
Price: £12.99 / $22.95
A warm-hearted novel for middle grade readers
A touching meditation on grief, faith, friendship and family
Explores big ideas, themes and issues in a way that is accessible to young readers, including bereavement, dementia, immigrant experience and Judaism
Eleven-year-old Jacob “Cobber” Stern has the world on his shoulders. Still grieving for his mother six years after her death; frustrated by his distant workaholic father; abandoned by his best friend Boolkie, who now has to study for his barmitzvah; and overwhelmed by his sense of responsibility for his ailing almost one-hundred-year-old great-grandfather, Papa-Ben. On top of that, Boolkie is pressuring him to perform his magic act at the school talent show, a terrifying prospect given how badly wrong that went last time Cobber performed at school.
As Cobber navigates the multiple challenges of his life, he learns more about the people around him: why his father works so hard and Boolkie’s reasons for having a barmitzvah.
In the process, he begins to understand more about himself and the threads that bind them all together. And as events force him to negotiate his complicated relationship with Judaism, he begins to see what it means to those he is closest to, and what it could mean to him.
Calling Cobber is about making decisions, answering life’s big questions, and working out how to process the past in order look to the future. Full of warmth and compassion and at once funny, emotional and profound, it is a touching, thought-provoking story of grief, faith, family and friendship.
Sheri Sinykin has published twenty books for young readers since 1990, including eight in a young reader series called The Magic Attic Club, Giving Up The Ghost, a YA novel set on a haunted plantation after Hurricane Katrina, and Zayde Comes To Live (illustrated by Kristina Swarner) which has won several awards.
She grew up in Sacramento, CA and has worked variously as an intern at Cosmopolitan, a daily newspaper reporter, a hospital PR director, and the assistant executive director of the Madison (WI) Convention and Visitors Bureau. She received an MFA in Writing for Children in 2003 from Vermont College, for which she wrote a critical thesis exploring children’s literature with themes of loss, bereavement, and she has a BA in Communications-Journalism from Stanford University.
“Sheri Sinykin’s newest novel artfully combines several issues of great interest to middle-grade readers … Rather than romanticizing an ostensibly richer Jewish past, the novel raises subtle questions about what it means to be Jewish when that identity is freely chosen. Challenging his father, Cobber asks if an obligatory bar mitzvah is truly important: ‘I can still be Jewish, right? Isn’t it like being white? A label? Something you just are?’ His father’s tentative response that being Jewish can be much more than a meaningless category is unconvincing, given his own isolation from his community. There is no facile conclusion about what it means to be a Jew. Papa-Ben’s roots in the Jewish past have lost a viable context in the present, and their relevance to Cobber’s search for meaning is unclear. Sinykin presents Cobber’s struggle for his own solution, including a sincere form of personal spirituality within Jewish tradition, with subtlety and balance … Calling Cobber is highly recommended and includes an ‘Author’s Note’ and a useful glossary of Hebrew, Yiddish, and other terms.” – Jewish Book Council