A Sky Full of Song

Union Square Kids. Apr. 2023. 272p. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9781454947844.
Gr 4-8–In 1905, 11-year-old Shoshana and her mother and sisters experience antisemitic violence and leave Ukraine for the United States. She arrives in North Dakota and moves into a dugout with her father and brother, who have been working to “prove up” their homestead. Shoshona and her father connect as he teaches her to play his fiddle. While her faith is important to her, Shoshona wants to fit in and is willing to participate in school activities related to Christmas to do this. Ultimately, it’s her connections to her faith, family, and father’s fiddle that give her the confidence to be fully herself. As she gets to know her new home, Shoshona does encounter two Dakota children and observes them being treated unfairly by members of her pioneer community. The problematic nature of settler colonialism is acknowledged through first-person narration from a child’s perspective. Shoshona questions why people were moved off the land so that she and her family could homestead on it. This engaging title does include usage of several antisemitic slurs that would have commonly been used at the time, without preparing readers for those terms or explaining that they are not acceptable words to use today.
VERDICT Solid historical fiction that fleshes out the diversity of the pioneer experience. Pair with books like Louise Erdrich’s Birchbark House or Linda Sue Park’s Prairie Lotus.

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