Every Sunday morning I make my kids wake up and be out the door by 9am in order to go to Hebrew School. Do I want to sleep in sometimes? Absolutely, but since I also run their Hebrew School, I don’t get that chance. While teaching Hebrew is not always a Jewish parent’s job, countless moms and dads have the same experience and I would bet that a lot of kids are just like mine – moaning about not wanting to go. Does this happen when kids are expected to go to church on Sunday mornings? Regardless, the jumping off point for Going Rogue (In Hebrew School) is exactly that, a normal kid who thinks he is wasting his time at Hebrew School.
*Thank you to NetGalley and Green Bean Books for a digital review copy of this book. All opinions are my own.
I really enjoyed this book and think it is a great option for 7-10 year olds. There are not a lot of books that focus on Jewish boys. There have been a few recent books that have Jewish girls as the main protagonist, but not boys. This solves that problem while easily appealing to boys and girls everywhere.
The story focuses on Avery Green. Like every kid I know, he doesn’t like going to Hebrew School. He doesn’t understand why it is necessary and would rather be playing football, doing some science experiment, or talking Star Wars. The story itself isn’t about Hebrew school, it is merely an entry point and works regardless of your religious background. The story is about being a good person.
Avery struggles with the fact that while he loves football, he is a bit on the scrawny side and has overprotective parents who worry about concussions. Also, Hebrew school and football have always overlapped and Hebrew school comes first. But not this year. He manages to convince them to let him play and winds up on a team with two complete opposite characters who give us our yin and yang – Damon is the class bully and loudmouth and Gideon is introspective and very bright. Your typically bully vs nerd (I say this with love as a proud nerd). Damon is constantly making fun of Avery and Gideon. This drives Avery crazy, but Gideon is always kind and friendly.
In Hebrew school, Avery struggles with the reasons he is there and how Judaism matters in his life. Avery is the perfect kid who is constantly asking questions, but asking so many he drives his teachers crazy. A temporary rabbi who seems to totally get Avery makes the difference. He helps Avery see that asking questions is a big part of being Jewish. He also encourages Avery to look at G-d as The Force that lives within all of us and is ours to decide whether to use for good or evil.
But it isn’t just Rabbi Bob that makes a difference to how Avery sees the world. Gideon is a force himself. He actually reminded me a lot of Owen Meany without the all caps talking. Gideon is the kid who is an easy target, but remains calm and cool at all times. When Damon is cruel, he remains kind considering that maybe Damon doesn’t have friends to show him the right way to act. We learn that Damon’s father is incredibly demanding and rather overbearing, that in fact, perhaps he doesn’t see his son for who he is but rather only who he thinks he should be. Between Rabbi Bob and Gideon, Avery begins to see the world and his place in it differently.
The thing about this book is that it felt real. Avery was a kid I could easily recognize and dealing with struggles that I think many tweens are dealing with. They know they are supposed to be nice, but bullies are making it challenging. What their peers think of them becomes even more important than before and the idea of being with the “wrong” people weighs heavily on their minds. They are starting to question the world that they are in and no longer willing to just take an adult’s word on something. Avery had just enough chutzpah to be a great protagonist and relevant to a lot of kids I know.