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Double Crossing

2006 Sydney Taylor Book Award Committee

Eleven-year-old Raizel lives a happy but precarious life with her family in 1905 Eastern Europe. As Jewish family, they are subject to many daily humiliations and frequent dangers from pogroms. When her father is drafted into the Czar’s army, it is decided that the two of them will leave immediately for America. Raizel’s first-person account of their travels is told with humor, drama and authenticity. Upon arrival in New York, her father’s illness and unkempt looks force the medical authorities to turn him away. Although he accepts this sentence unquestioningly, it is Raizel who finally convinces him to change his appearance and his outlook so that they can try again for admission to the United States. Most immigrant stories follow a familiar storyline – a poor family arrives in America, suffers in poverty and confusion, and eventually overcomes the odds to make it in a new life.
Eve Tal offers here a new and interesting look at those unfortunates who made the long journey to America, only to be turned away and sent back home. Raizel is a real character, a girl who is quick-witted, flawed, and brave, and readers will be sure to enjoy this book.
—Nancy Austein

Raizel, the eldest child in her family, loves her village in Russia, but Papa must leave or he will be inducted into the Czar's army. Raizel must accompany him to America to keep house until Mama and the other children can join them. Papa thinks he has all the details worked out, but the journey to the ship is hard and Raizel almost loses her life when crossing a river. The story of the kindness of strangers and the actual crossing is told through the eyes of Raizel. With a brief chapter on what happens at Ellis Island, Raizel and her father must return to Europe because they are rejected, hence the title of the novel, Double Crossing.
—Susan Berman

Assimilation in the New World is nothing new in literature, but Double Crossing manages to be both entertaining and informative as it relates the troubling story of 11-year-old Raizel on her journey to America with her extremely pious father. The crossing is especially difficult on her father, who grows weaker when their meager supply of kosher food is stolen. Because of his fragile health and his lack of a marketable trade, they are denied admission. On the journey back to Europe, Raizel makes friends with a wealthy mother and adult son pair, who help her learn English, and eventually they convince Raizel’s father to eat the non-kosher food to regain his strength, and to shave his beard. The ruse is successful, and the travelers are admitted to America on the second attempt. Raizel is in many ways a typical modern female protagonist; she is portrayed as a lively, inquisitive, brave, persistent girl, who loves to tell imaginative stories and desperately wants to go to school. Readers will identify with her and will feel her difficulties keenly. Raizel and her father must assimilate to get into America, but they seem not to consider readopting any of their Judaism once they get past the immigration.
—Marci Lavine Bloch

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