cover image Strudel Stories

Strudel Stories

Joanne Rocklin. Delacorte Press Books for Young Readers, $14.95 (144pp) ISBN 978-0-385-32602-5

In her tender collection of connected vignettes, Rocklin (For Your Eyes Only) identifies the secret ingredient for the strudel prized by generations of a Jewish family: the family stories that accompany the baking. The book begins in 1999, when Lori and Jessica's Grandpa Willy has just died. The sisters decide that one way to keep Willy's memory alive is to bake a strudel--and retell the tales he often shared with them. So as the apples get peeled, the narrative flashes back to the time of Willy's great-grandmother, Sarah, who lived in Russia and then came to America with her children in the early 1900s. Sarah tells how she helped outwit the angel of death when he came looking for her younger brother (""He was small and skinny, like a cucumber for pickling""), then recounts her brother's various exploits. Sarah's daughter and Willy carry on the tradition, adding stories of immigrant life in New York City and of WWII to the mix, and so on. Though readers may have some difficulty keeping track of who's who (a family tree at the end helps), they will readily dig into the colorful, sometimes dramatic anecdotes. Rocklin writes with flair and with heart--and for the truly inspired, she includes three generations of strudel recipes--Sarah's in Yiddish, Lori and Jessica's using frozen filo dough. A treat no matter how you slice it. Ages 8-12. (Feb.)