cover image Big Dreams, Small Fish

Big Dreams, Small Fish

Paula Cohen. Levine Querido, $17.99 (40p) ISBN 978-1-64614-126-5

Shirley and her white Jewish family have opened up “a new store in a new neighborhood,” and life seems pretty good, except in two respects: no one is buying the homemade gefilte fish (“No one would even TRY it”), and Shirley’s parents think she’s too young to help them solve this vexing business problem (“We didn’t come to this country for you to solve problems,” says her father). But Shirley is full of big ideas, and when she’s left to mind the store, she includes a free sample of gefilte fish with every purchase. Her parents are appalled—but the next morning, the digitally colored pencil drawings show an ethnically inclusive line around the block of people eager to buy “the new neighborhood delicacy.” This Yiddish-punctuated slice-of-life story, Cohen’s picture book debut, wears its nostalgia lightly; the narrator’s voice is as crisp as the illustrations’ black outlines, set in an unspecified era that appears to be the 1930s or ’40s. What really matters here is timeless: an indomitable protagonist and the loving family who dotes on her. Back matter includes a glossary of Yiddish words and a gefilte fish recipe. Ages 4–8. Agent: Christy Ewers, CAT Agency. (Mar.)