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My Guardian Angel Hardcover – September 1, 2004

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 6-8–The Crusaders–often icons of valor and derring-do in Robin Hood legends–were harbingers of terror and imminent death for medieval Jews. Elvina, granddaughter of the revered 11th-century French rabbi and commentator Rashi, takes center-stage in this novel in which readers experience the period through Jewish eyes. The otherwise fascinating plot proceeds somewhat erratically in chapters that alternate, but not consistently, between the 12-year-old's first-person communications with her imaginary guardian angel, Mazal, and a third-person narrative. While her mother is helping a friend through childbirth, Elvina becomes the woman of the house, frustratingly trying to balance her love of reading and writing and long, philosophical talks with her beloved grandfather with female responsibilities that she really doesn't want. When news that the illiterate Crusaders are heading through Troyes en route to Jerusalem to destroy the infidels (Muslims), the Jews know that they are in equal danger. While their leaders try to appease the marauders, Elvina stumbles on a young deserter who is hiding because he wants to study with priests rather than fight. Through a series of believable coincidences, the act of helping him becomes the catalyst for saving the community. Though occasionally uneven writing (or translating) keeps readers from being riveted, descriptions of traditions are well done and informative. Elvina's story brings a time, a place, and a people long ignored to life, but the novel may find a limited audience.–Mary R. Hofmann, Rivera Middle School, Merced, CA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Gr. 5-7. "Did God put me on this earth just to hatch eggs?" wails 12-year-old Elvina. Certainly Queen Esther, the heroine celebrated on Purim, had a more significant role to play than keeping hens' eggs warm during winter, a task considered "proper and profitable" for Jewish girls in eleventh-century France. But Elvina feels less than bold when real responsibility looms: Gauthier, a reluctant young Crusader, asks her to help him desert his regiment. Is the advance notice he promises about possible attacks on the Jewish community worth the risks? Too many extraneous characters deflect attention from the interfaith friendship between Elvina and Gauthier, and some readers may be distracted by the intermingling of third-person narrative with first-person monologues directed at Elvina's guardian angel. Even so, this French import offers a heady plunge into medieval Europe as well as an enlightening lesson about anti-Semitism in a time period long before the Holocaust. An author's note reveals that both Elvina and her beloved grandfather, the rabbinical scholar Rashi, were historical figures. Jennifer Mattson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 9 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 4 - 7
  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books; 1st US Edition September 2004 edition (September 1, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0439576814
  • ISBN-13: 978-0439576819
  • Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 5.8 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,017,300 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Heidi Estrin on January 25, 2005
Format: Hardcover
This title was named a 2004 Sydney Taylor Honor Book by the Association of Jewish Libraries.

Twelve-year-old Elvina is the granddaughter of the great Rabbi Rashi. She has a curious and lively nature and a thirst for knowledge. Her goodness of heart and her knowledge of Torah lead her to assist a wounded Crusader, despite his the cruelty the Crusaders show to the Jews in 11th century France. The guardian angel of the title provides a listener for Elvina's thoughts and worries. Elvina and her grandfather are real historical figures, and the real Elvina was "highly regarded during her lifetime for her knowledge and wisdom."

This chapter book is translated from French, which may account for the strange stylistic choice to shift back and forth between Elvina's voice and an omniscient narrator. Despite this odd structure, the story is easy to follow and the language flows. Elvina is a likeable character, very lively and full of interesting thoughts. The author breathes life into the descriptions of medieval customs, so that they feel natural rather than forced and educational. Additionally, Elvina truly lives her Judaism, rather than mouthing pieties as characters in historical novels often do. It infuses her life, not only in her behavior but also in her decisions, her fears, and her joys.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Team LitPick on January 3, 2005
Format: Hardcover
A Jewish girl named Elvina who knows how to read and write is living in France, 1096. Crusaders have entered her village, Troyes, and are worrying everyone in the Jewish community. During this troubling time, Elvina starts to talk to her Mazal, or guardian angel. When she hides a Crusader who does not want to fight, her life changes, but for better or for worse, you will have to read the book.

If you like historical fiction, then you would really like this book. I do not like historical fiction that much, but this book went at a nice pace and it made you want to know what happened to the characters. The only thing that I didn't like was that sometimes the narrative would change from 3rd to 1st person. Other than that, it had a pretty good plot and it was pretty entertaining. Sylvie Weil could have made the book better by keeping the narratives the same throughout the book, but it was good overall.

Reviewed by J. Plowe for Flamingnet Book Reviews, [...]
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Bobbi White on August 14, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a wonderful story, rich in history, layered with details that are engaging and memorable. I highly recommend this book for young girls of all backgrounds but especially for those whose experience would be enriched by diving deeply into the past of European Hebrew history. The story is a pure delight. All girls would enjoy it; Jewish girls would love it!
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