Too Far from Home

(Author) (Illustrator)

Product Details

Kar-Ben Publishing (R)
Publish Date
5.6 X 7.6 X 0.7 inches | 0.4 pounds

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About the Author

Naomi Shmuel is an author of more than 15 books, as well as an illustrator and anthropologist. She was the author of the first children's books in Hebrew to feature characters of color. Born in England, she began writing for her own children following their encounters with bias: her husband made the long and difficult journey on foot from Ethiopia to Sudan in order to reach Israel. The Hebrew version of Too Far From Home won the international Anderson Prize. She lives in Israel.
Avi Katz, best known as the illustrator of Jerusalem Report magazine, has illustrated over 100 books. He lives in Israel.


Meskerem was born in a small town in the Golan Heights of Israel, to an Ethiopian mother and an American father. Soon after Operation Solomon, when several thousand Ethiopian immigrants were brought to Israel, Meskerem's parents decided to move to the center of the country, to the town of Herzelia. Meskerem comes face-to-face with the ignorance and prejudices of her new classmates, many of whom are meeting someone dark-skinned for the first time. With the help of her Ethiopian grandmother, who remained in Kazerin, Meskerem comes to terms with who she is and finds strength in belonging to three different cultures. A deftly written and thoroughly entertaining story with an important underlying message about the value of tolerance and cultural differences, 'Too Far From Home' is an especially and unreservedly recommended addition to family, elementary school, middle school, and community library collections for young readers ages 8-13. It should be noted for personal reading lists that 'Too Far From Home' is also readily available in a paperback edition (9781541546738, $8.99) and in a digital book format (Kindle, $8.99). -- James A. Cox, Editor-in-Chief, Midwest Book Review, Oregon WI

-- "Website"
A biracial girl encounters racism when she and her family move to a new city in Israel. Meskerem and her little sisters were all born in Israel. She has always been proud of her loving, interracial Jewish family and of her mixed Ethiopian American heritage. But on the first day at her new school her classmates taunt her because of her color and their assumption that she is a newly arrived Ethiopian immigrant--so she claims to be American. There are further bullying incidents, and Meskerem is miserable, confused, and angry. She withdraws from her parents, but her grandmother gives her a better understanding of the danger-filled struggles of Ethiopian Jews to reach asylum in Israel, with her parents filling in additional details. When she shares this information in a school project, there's a hopeful, if facile, outcome. Despite these expository opportunities, this Israeli import lacks context for North American readers unfamiliar with Operation Solomon and the concept of making aliyah, and there is no backmatter supplement. Meskerem narrates her own story, never exceeding her child's understanding of events. While Shmuel provides a hopeful vision of acceptance and friendship, the author bio reveals that the story is based in part on the experiences of her own biracial (Ethiopian/Israeli) children. Katz's softly drawn illustrations add depth and detail. Readers will respond to this portrait of a proud, loving family in a difficult situation. -- Kirkus Reviews-- "Journal"

This is a book that I think will help children to understand some of the challenges of being too far from home. It shows that in time things will get better when you are feeling homesick and need to adjust to living in a new place. It gives an excellent example in it of how people can try to make things better when they are in difficult situations. I noticed a couple of times that Meskerem was too far from home, first with her and her family moving from Katzrin to Herzliya, which are both in Israel, then when she visited a family member in Katzrin after she moved Herzliya. It will help to educate children on what it was like for some Jewish people in the past who lived in Ethiopia and how strong family bonds usually never die when people are separated for long periods of time. I like how this book throws in some Hebrew words every now and then, which I think will help children to start grasping onto some Hebrew words. It shows some examples of how being too far from home is different for people, whether it's being in another country or in a new town within the same country that is different than where they grew up and already had friends at. This book encouraged me as an adult to continue to keep trying in my person-to-person relationships when I've made a mistake and I think people are mad at me or I get mad at them for something. We stay mad at each other for a little while but pretty soon after it feels like it is wiped away if we keep trying to make things better in the relationship and improve ourselves. It doesn't give any examples that I noticed of what to do when people try to fix things in person-to-person relationships and they are ignored or are shown unforgiveness, but I think that would be a good discussion question when discussing this book in classes, in groups, or individually. -- Jill Harris

-- "Blog"