Book Review

From the Association of Jewish Libraries “News and Reviews,” September/October 2019

The Five Star Detectives (a family of five children) work hard at analyzing clues, interviewing witnesses, and decoding messages in order to solve neighborhood mysteries.

Eleven-year-old Shimmy Stern organizes his spunky siblings: artsy ten-year-old Adina, precocious eight-year-old Yitzy, seven-year-old Nosson, who is always hungry, and adorable four-year-old Miri, into a determined team who love adventure, fun, and helping others. Neighbor Mrs. Rabinovitz, as is her holiday tradition, sets up eight menorahs two weeks before Chanukah when she will light a different one each night. Each menorah has special meaning – six belonged to her now adult children when they were young, one
was a gift from her parents for her wedding, and one is from Israel. She loves seeing the menorahs and feeling the warm memories of family traditions.

But then some of the candles go missing, and Mrs. Rabinovitz turns to the Stern gang for help. They investigate carefully and seriously using methods they have studied and read about – decoding messages, dusting for fingerprints, questioning possible suspects, and eventually solve the mystery with lots of humor and sensitivity. The story is fun and amusing and focuses on teamwork, determination, and tradition. At the end of the story, the Stern siblings and their friends create a special and beautiful Chanukah celebration for Mrs. Rabinovitz.

There is a subtle emphasis on the positive Jewish values of helping others, honesty, and caring which are evident in the actions and expressions of the characters. The language is simple and descriptive, and the reader becomes part of the Stern family as they experience challenges in their daily lives while working on their case. While this series is targeted to Orthodox readers, Ellen Roteman’s combination of a fun story with a favorite holiday will appeal to everyone.

Rachel Glasser, retired librarian. Yavneh Academy, Teaneck, NJ