“'There's cold chicken inside it,' replied the Rat briefly; 'coldtonguecoldhamcoldbeefpickledgherkinssaladfrench

'O stop, stop,' cried the Mole in ecstacies: 'This is too much!'”
-- from
The Wind in the Willows

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Estie the Mensch • Picture book

Estie the Mensch
by Jane Kohuth  illustrated by Roseanne Litzinger
Available now   Random House Books for Young Readers  Ages 4 - 8   
Story:  Estie does not always like people. So when her grandmother reminds her to be a mensch (what's a mensch?), she'd rather not. She'd rather be a dog. Or a turtle. Or a seagull. Being a monkey can even make another kid laugh! But it can also make another kid cry, and that's when Estie and her grandmother find out what a mensch Estie can really be.  If being a meansch means helping a new friend, then maybe it's not so bad after all? 
Story behind the story: Jane Kohuth (also the author of DUCKS GO VROOM, a Ready to Read book) says, "I had been thinking, for some reason, about the Yiddish term, "mensch," which literally means "person," but which is always used to mean a truly exemplary person of high moral character.  It occurred to me that there might be a story in a child's coming to understand the difference between being a person (as opposed to being an animal) and being a "real mensch," a person of good character, generosity etc.  So many children love pretending to be animals, and I began to develop a picture of a child who deals with shyness and social awkwardness by avoiding being a person at all and instead pretending to be different creatures.  I felt like I understood this child, having been a shy imaginative child myself, and having had a similar but zanier little sister.  I didn't want the book to be preachy.  My character had to stay true to herself while uncovering in herself a mensch in the deep and most important sense of the term.  In my first draft my main character was a boy, but it didn't feel right.  The story only came to life for me when I invented Estie, who was a little bit me, a little bit my sister, and a little bit a person and a mensch all her own. My editor, Christy Webster, helped me to flesh out the second half of the story, which created  a better rhythm and pace to he story as a whole, and let me play up the story's humor."


"Litzinger's chalky illustrations have a tender, earnest quality, and Estie's red hair and green eyes give her animal impersonations pep in an offbeat story of gentle misbehavior, budding friendship, and close-knit family dynamics.- Publishers Weekly

"Estie’s six. Maybe. She doesn’t like people. She doesn’t like not being the way she wants to be. And when you’re six, that’s exactly where it’s at. When you’re six, you’re doing your thing. You’ve figured out that putting small stuff in your mouth is bad, but you probably, sometimes, accidentally-on-purpose still color the wall with crayons. And Estie? She would rather be anything but a person or a Mensch, and so she is every animal under the sun instead.  I love Estie." - Anne Tynham Blog

PJ Library Book

FYI:  All the review copies for this title have been sent.  Please check back and see the "comments" link to read what your colleagues have to say...


Lianne Johnson said...

A wonderful jewel! Vibrant illustrations entwined with a heartfelt message make this a great addition to your library.

ReaderTeacher said...

Estie the Mensch is a sweet story that shares the power of being a good person. It is an enjoyable story to read to young children or even to older ones.

Lisa said...

Estie the Mensch is a lovely story that is meant to send a message about being kind, good, and polite. Readers of the book will applaud Estie for learning to be kind-hearted while also embracing her own unique qualities. Children will be entertained Estie's imitation of various animals. The information about the author can be shared with children to help them explore how authors get story ideas. I would share this book with the elementary readers I work with. I give this book a 5 rating.

Angela said...

I LOVE Estie the Mensch! I found it could be useful for so many lessons. Most of all when teaching young people about how their behavior can be perceived differently by different people in different situations. I love the message that it is okay to be imaginative and be yourself at the same time as you are following rules and being polite. Estie's journey to this realization was quite charming and I know many kids who would relate completely. A 5 point story in my book!

loonyhiker said...

This book is a great book for young children. It deals with a little girl who wants to be different and how people accept those who are different. It also would be a great introduction on appropriate behavior in different situations. With the great illustrations, it will be easy to hold a child’s attention. The word “Mensch” is also introduced and can lead into a discussion about other cultures and religions along with tolerance of those who are different than us. I would give this book a 5 out of 5 rating.

Anonymous said...

Kindergarten students enjoyed this fun read aloud and enjoyed Estie - kind, but always her own person.

Carol said...

I found the story to be satisfactory. It is not the type of book that after finishing I am propelled to share it and recommend others add it to their collection.

I do appreciate the author's effort in sending a message about being a good person and the use of the Yiddish term Mensch, does add to the uniqueness of this story. This book also serves as a nice model for the active role of grandparents and their efforts to support the rearing of their grandchild.

3/5 rating


Anonymous said...

My first graders found the book enjoyable. They enjoyed acting out the animals that Estie pretended to become. Many sought it out for an independent "read" during free reading time. It was useful as a tool for teaching good manners and inter-personal relationships. I rate this book a strong 4.

Norah said...

Estie the Mensch is a lovely story about being a polite person and about making a first friend. The story left me a little flat; Estie is not a very warm character (she doesn't seem to listen to anyone) and we don't get to know her true personality very well. I think that my kindergarteners and first grade students would enjoy the story because of the animal imitations and the repetitions. Overall, I give this story 3 stars out of 5.

Somerville, MA

M. Battista said...

I found Estie very charming. Although the illustrations have a retro feel to them, they still pair nicely with the text. It's not the type of book that is popular with our students, but I am sure that those who pick it up will be charmed by Estie as well.

Picnic Rating: 4

Denair, CA

Julia Pitau said...

I truly enjoyed this story about a little girl not wanting to be a person. It reminded me of the times when my children were young and approached by people they didn't know. How true to just want to "cover your head like a turtle" and not deal with "it". Eventually, with the help from her family and extended family, she over comes this. In the process, the author takes us on a wonderful trip with Estie as she becomes many different animals with beautiful accompanying illustrations! Quite the little treasure of a book I'm sure many children will be able to relate to.

Picnic Rating: 4
Denair Charter Academy

Anonymous said...

Wonderful book! My first grade class loved the story. They even asked to hear it again! Some had the book in their hands during independent reading time. The theme of the story of being kind, good, and polite are attributes everyone wants their child to possess. Definitely a springboard for teaching manners, etc. The children scored it a 5/5 (me too)!

Heather Hill said...

Estie the Mensch is a great story for early elementary age kids. Though you would need to introduce "mensch", the students would enjoy and relate with Estie always wanting to pretend to be an animal instead of a person. By the end, Estie finds a way to both be a kind friend, or person, and still keep on pretending.

I give the story a 4 out of 5.

Heather Hill
Enterprise Elementary
Woodbridge, VA