cover image Estie the Mensch

Estie the Mensch

Jane Kohuth, illus. by Rosanne Litzinger. Random, $16.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-375-86778-1

Estie would rather be a turtle, dog, tiger, or seagull than a person. "People hogged the best toys at school. People pushed on the train. People wore smelly perfume and asked her questions she didn't know the answer to." But when she crawls under the table and sniffs her family's feet, puts shells in her mouth at the beach, and monkeys around at the market, her mother, father, and grandmother use a Yiddish expression to urge her to change her behavior: "Be a mensch, Estie" (in other words, be a person%E2%80%94a good person). She finally finds an approving audience in chatty Petie, who thinks that it's hilarious when she imitates the animals at the zoo. Kohuth spends most of the book on Estie's animal antics, firmly establishing her heroine's contrarian streak, which makes Estie's last-minute demonstration of mensch-worthy generosity feel like something of an afterthought. But Litzinger's chalky illustrations have a tender, earnest quality, and Estie's red hair and green eyes give her animal impersonations pep in an offbeat story of gentle misbehavior, budding friendship, and close-knit family dynamics. Ages 3%E2%80%938. (Aug.)