No Vacancy

No Vacancy
written by Tziporah Cohen
Groundwood Books, 2020
978-1-77306-410-9 (hc) $18.95
for Grades 5 and up

Fiction | Family | Faith and Religion | Judaism | Intolerance | Community

When Miriam Brockman and her family move to the tiny town of Greenvale to run the Jewel Motor Inn, Miriam is skeptical that this tired old motel will ever feel like home. She misses her friends and life in New York City, and she resents the neverending chores that get heaped upon her as her parents scramble to learn the ins and outs of running a motel. Before long, Miriam makes new friends and starts to settle into her new life. But she then starts to worry about what will happen to them if business at the Jewel doesn’t pick up. So she and Kate from next door devise a plan to help bring people flocking to Greenvale. Their plan is a huge success but leaves Miriam wrestling with her conscience. Then someone paints a swastika on the Jewel’s sign, and Miriam and her family must try to come to terms with this act of hatred. Miriam comes up with a new plan to rise above the hate and hurtfulness. But ultimately, it is their new friends and neighbours who come together to support Miriam and her family when they need it most.

Through Miriam’s eyes, readers of this thoughtful middle-grade tale are given the opportunity to ponder important questions about faith and friendship, truth and acceptance and the things that bring people together. Miriam is an earnest, likeable and genuinely believable character who values her Jewish heritage and traditions while trying to understand why and how their Jewishness makes them different from Kate, Maria and Father Donovan, her new Catholic friends. She is given many opportunities to reflect on faith and what it means to different people, including the people in her own life. She also rediscovers the importance of family and of community in times of trouble. Tziporah Cohen has crafted a simple story filled with memorable and sympathetic characters that poignantly explores profound questions about our relationships with one another.

Lisa Doucet is Co-Manager of Woozles in Halifax.

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