The Importance of Wings
Charlesbridge Publishing | JULY 2009 | Middle-Grade Novel
A Gold Medal in the Older Readers Category by the Sydney Taylor Book Award Committee of the Association of Jewish Libraries 2010. [Hear my acceptance speech!]
A Cynsational Book of 2009.
A Bildungsroman Best Book of 2009.
A Best Jewish Chapter Book of 2009 by Tablet magazine.
I was super-lucky to meet the late and great Paul Zindel, renowned author of The Pigman, several years ago. He commented off-handedly that all his books were autobiographical, and a friend of mine asked him if his family got angry with him for writing about them.
“Yes,” he replied. “They do get angry with me. But then they ask me who's playing them in the movie.”
Well, that was all the permission I needed to mine my own childhood! Like my main character, I grew up on Staten Island in the 1980s. I also hated gym, had endless trouble getting my hair to do what I wanted, watched too much TV, and was born in Israel.
But that's where truth ends and fiction begins. One of the greatest benefits of being a writer, in fact, is being able to re-tell, and maybe even re-live within the pages of a book, one's past!
Roxanne, thirteen years old and born in Israel, wants nothing more than to be American. As American as Wonder Woman and the All-American families she sees on TV — The Brady Bunch, The Waltons, Little House on the Prairie — which Roxanne prefers to real life.
But when new neighbors move into the house next door — called “The Cursed House” because something terrible always happens to anyone who lives there — Roxanne finally learns the true meaning of fitting in.
“This is a great book. It is well written and it catches your attention from the very first page with “it’s called the cursed house because something terrible always happens to anyone who lives there.” You will want to continue to read to see if the house is really cursed. Will Liat be able to handle the kids at her new school? Will she fit in or will she be an out cast? If Liat is able to help Roxanne stand up for herself and be proud of whom she is? We do not want to give away too much from the book, but it does have a great message. You will have to read the book to find out what that message is. It is a message that everyone needs to remember at some point.”
“A quiet, thoughtful book that speaks to the heart.”
“The title, of course, refers to the perfect flip of feathered hair, created with a round brush and a blowdryer… Very readable. I like that it depicts completely secular Israelis, a portrayal that may surprise many American kids.”
“Although this story is aimed mainly at Jewish readers, I think it would appeal to a much larger audience, since so many children today have hyphenated identities. In addition, the larger message of self-acceptance is a universal one.”
“[A] readable coming-of-age story that captures many universal aspects of the contemporary immigrant experience coupled with middle school angst, first crushes, and the importance of finding one’s own wings.”
—School Library Journal
“I just have to say I loved it. It felt so right. I thought it very authentic. I definitely recommend this one!”
“Told in a first-person voice that is both sardonic and sincere, Friedman's novel succeeds in bringing forth some common issues that challenge any immigrant American child who must straddle separate ways of life while striving for that true-blue American image.”
“While the novel is set during the 1980s, its pop culture references, to Pac Man, among others, should be fairly easily accessible to twenty-first century readers. It also realistically portrays the experience of a young immigrant and the angst anyone might feel about fitting in is timeless.”
“Eighth-grader Roxanne misses her mother, who has gone home to Israel for several months to care for a relative. It’s the early 1980s, in Staten Island, and Roxanne’s other big concern is her family’s lack of thorough-going Americanness; being Israeli, she has decided, is a problem. She and her nine-year-old sister live on a diet of television, cold cereal, and waiting for their father to return late each night from driving his cab. Then Liat, a girl Roxanne’s age, moves in next door and challenges the sisters to explore the possibilities around them and accept their identity as Israeli-Americans… Friedman does an exquisite job in bringing the two older girls to life and showing how each has responded to her family’s upheavals and current circumstances.”
“Friedman has an open and accessible writing style, and she creates an affecting portrait of a young girl always anxious about meeting everyone’s standards.”
—The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books
“This engrossing novel, with its well-developed characters, does an excellent job in playing upon different interpretations of the book’s title. The Importance of Wings makes for an altogether enjoyable and insightful read.”
—Rutgers University Project on Economics and Children
"With appealing and affecting writing, Ms. Friedman grabs the reader immediately and takes you on a journey of self-discovery, confidence building and empowerment that will leave you hoping for a sequel. While the title of the book refers to the ‘Farrah Fawcett (™) Hairstyle’ of the 80s, it is really about what happens when teens discover their inner beauty and self confidence."