Review of No Vacancy

No Vacancy
by Tziporah Cohen
Intermediate, Middle School    Groundwood    144 pp.    g 
9/20    978-1-77306-410-9    $16.95 
e-book ed.  978-1-77306-411-6    $14.95 

Eleven-year-old Miriam’s family buys a motel in a tiny upstate New York town and moves there from Manhattan. When it becomes clear that the motel isn’t as lucrative as her parents had hoped, Miriam (who is Jewish) and a Catholic friend successfully attract more visitors to the town by faking an apparition of the Virgin Mary on a local drive-in theater screen. This summer-in-a-small-town novel, with a mischief-based premise and an old-fashioned feel, includes plenty of exploration of how Miriam and her family fit into the larger community, particularly her interactions with Maria, the motel’s Mexican immigrant housekeeper, who’s trying to earn money for medical school; and Anton, a wheelchair user whose mother insists on seeking a miracle cure for his disability. Specific, accurate details of Jewish life are woven throughout; Miriam’s status as one of the town’s only Jews also leads to thoughtful reflections on her relationship with her Jewishness, as does an antisemitic graffiti incident at the motel. 

From the September/October 2020 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Shoshana Flax
Shoshana Flax

Shoshana Flax, assistant editor of The Horn Book Magazine, is a former bookseller and holds an MFA in Writing for Children from Simmons University. She was a 2019-2020 member of the Sydney Taylor Book Award committee.

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