From School Library Journal
Gr 5-7–When 13-year-old Dahlia, a sleight of hand expert, agrees to go to a Jewish summer camp, she worries that she won't fit in or make friends. And almost immediately, things get strange. Before she even enters her cabin, two girls appear in a shimmer of light and then walk calmly through the cabin wall. As the days go on, Dahlia is drawn deeper into the mystery of who they are, why the camp caretaker seems to dislike her, and why he insists that none of the campers goes near the maze in the ground. This unique, engaging fantasy takes readers on a spooky, exciting journey between Dahlia's world and the mysterious world of David Schank, a man from the 1940s who begins to inhabit her psyche as the power of the mystical Kabbalah forces its way into the world. Dahlia finds herself able to speak fluent Hebrew and “knowing” things she couldn't know. As children go missing, the threats multiply and coalesce in a thrilling conclusion. Readers without any knowledge of Gematria (the assigning of numbers with mystical significance to words), the Kabbalah, or the myth of the golem may find some details challenging. However, the action and excitement should carry them through. Debut novelist Goelman skillfully navigates the intricacies of the fantasy world in two eras and the contemporary dramas of the camp, complete with mean girls, friendship issues, and a popular older brother who is a counselor. The dialogue of the present-day characters has a wonderfully sure touch, and the figures from the 1940s, particularly the ominous caretaker, come powerfully to life.–Sue Giffard, Ethical Culture Fieldston School, New York Cityα(c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
*Starred Review* Spunky, sarcastic Dahlia begins summer camp by watching two girls disappear through the wall of her cabin. Then she starts dreaming about David Schank, a 1940s Yeshiva student on the lam after discovering the very powerful seventy-second name of God. Meanwhile, Barry, the ancient groundskeeper, intently guards the hedge maze on camp property. At first, Dahlia denies any mystical goings-on, instead believing that her dreams are a fluke and the ghostly girls are just another magic trick. That is, until she starts reading an old book on kabbalah that ties it all together. Kabbalah? Oh yes, and it works. Jewish mysticism is heavy stuff, but Goelman (perhaps purposefully) speeds through a vague explanation—from an inept counselor more interested in groovy spiritualism than mystical enlightenment—and lets the magical elements of the tradition do the heavy lifting. Dahlia channels David’s knowledge of the seventy-second name and the magical power of words to enter the maze, which contains a secret passage to a higher dimension. With the help of her friends, she uses her mystical powers to confront the Illuminated One, who selfishly seeks the name for himself. Debut author Goelman’s story is full of exciting plot twists and well-rounded, engaging characters—all amped up by thrilling, esoteric magic. Grades 5-8. --Sarah Hunter