Set during the 1918 flu pandemic, “Rivka’s Presents” brings us into the world of a little girl who wants nothing more than to learn. Rivka, a young Jewish girl, isn’t able to go to school because her Papa is sick with the flu, and her Mama has to work at the shirtwaist factory in his place, leaving Rivka responsible for her younger sister, Miriam. Rivka is desperate to learn and makes deals with her neighbors, trading her work for lessons in reading, mathematics, and American history. In the end, Rivka receives the greatest gift of all, knowledge.
This beautifully illustrated picture book covers a heavy topic through a lens of joy and perseverance. I appreciated the way that it teaches children about a period in history while also remaining relevant to their experiences today. In addition to the beautiful illustrations and story, this book also introduces children to a number of Yiddish words and Jewish customs. I enjoyed every second of this book, and spent much time perusing the images and appreciating the ways that the illustrator accompanied the author.
--reviewed by Rachel L.