Review: Rifka Takes a Bow by Rebecca Rosenberg Perlov

rifka takes a bow

Rifka Takes a Bow by Betty Rosenberg Perlov, illustrated by Cosei Kawa

Rifka’s parents are actors in the Yiddish theater community, they work at The Grand and perform regularly.  So Rifka has grown up behind the stage, seeing them transform into different characters.  Sometimes they are so different, she isn’t really sure they are the same person.  When she goes to work with them, she gets to ride the subway and have a snack at the Automat.  She gets to look behind the stage and discover all of the illusions that go into doing theater.  Then one day, Rifka is climbing a set of stairs behind the stage and accidentally steps out during a performance!  What is a girl with acting in her blood going to do?

Written by a woman who herself grew up in the Yiddish Theater where her parents worked, this book captures the wonder of that lifestyle for a small child.  Perlov also shows us the intimate details of that world with the tricks of the stage, the joy of viewing a performance from the wings, and the obvious charm of having parents who are theater people.  This is a beautiful look at a world that has disappeared with the times.

Kawa’s artwork is very unique.  It has a wonderful modern feel thanks to the interesting proportions of the heads and bodies of the characters.  Perhaps the best touch are the little objects that dance in the air.  Whenever people are performing or communicating, they are there and flowing between them.  They offer a sense of the flow of this family and the flow that happens with the audience as well.

A joy to read, this book truly is a look at a lost world from the perspective of someone who actually lived it.  Appropriate for ages 5-7.

Reviewed from library copy.