Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

My Guardian Angel

My Guardian Angel

Sylvie Weil
Historical Fiction
For ages 12 and up
Scholastic, 2004   ISBN: 0439576814

Elvina is proud of her family, especially her grandfather, the great and famous Rabbi Rashi. Thanks to him, Elvina can read and write, a rare accomplishment for a young Jewish girl living in France in 1096. Elvina is living in troubled times and she and her community live in fear, for the crusaders are on the move and often these soldiers will attack Jewish homes and businesses.

Against this backdrop of fear and anxiety Elvina has her own worries and concerns, for she is not like the other girls and wishes for more out of life than just being a wife and mother. Elvina is delighted when her grandfather asks for her help writing letters, and she treasures the days when she can sit in the back of the school and listen to the lessons that her brothers and cousins participate in. Her love of education and her unconventional behaviour causes problems however; Elvina’s younger male relatives are terribly embarrassed to see her sitting quietly in the back of their classroom, and her father wonders if she will ever be as other girls are.

As it happens, they are all very lucky that Elvina is thoughtful, clever and sharp-witted, for it is these qualities that help ensure that the community is safe when the crusaders come to the town.

In this book the author beautifully carries us into Elvina’s world, switching between a third person narrative and Elvin's own words.We get a few glimpses into Elvina’s heart when she shares her thoughts and feelings with “Mazal” her guardian angel, in letters that she writes to her angel. Sometimes Elvina is seeking guidance, and sometimes she is simply seeking a friend who will listen to her problems.

Superbly researched, this is a book that will intrigue and delight readers who enjoy historical fiction. There is no doubt that the author loves her characters, and by telling the story of Rabi Rashi’s family in Troyes, France, she describes a time and a place that is both fascinating and disturbing. Rabi Rashi was a real man who greatly influenced the lives of his people both in his own lifetime and long after he was gone.