The town bully, Karl Leckner, threatens to nail her mouth shut. Her best friend says she has more sass than sense. Even her beloved Zayde wishes she would hold her tongue and rise above. But 13-year-old Gittel Borenstein’s feet are planted stubbornly on the earth and her tongue is as sharp as Zayde’s shochet, the razor he uses for butchering chickens. She’s fed up with being called Geetle Beetle, or Jew girl, or worse.
The Borensteins and 12 other Jewish families have left behind the deadly pogroms of Eastern Europe only to find life nearly as harsh in 1911 Mill Creek, Wisconsin. The winters are fierce, farming unfamiliar, and not everyone in Mill Creek accepts the Jewish settlers.
A star student, Gittel takes refuge in school, where she longs to blend in with her gentile friends and dreams of becoming a famous writer or singer. Both dreams seem equally far-fetched. Eighth grade is the last year of formal schooling available in Mill Creek and Karl Leckner is determined a Jewish girl will never blend in. When Gittel dares to sing with the school choir as they prepare for the Christmas pageant, Karl and his fire-and-brimstone father threaten dire consequences.
Available from Fitzroy Books, Spring 2025