Nathan’s Song

Written by Leda Schubert Maya Ish-Shalom (illus.)
Review by Dorothy Schwab

Nathan’s Song was inspired by the author’s grandfather, born in a Jewish shtetl in Russia in the late 1800s. Always singing as a child and after hearing an opera singer in a nearby village, Nathan and his family are determined to earn enough money for his singing lessons in Italy. At age 16, he travels from Russia to Italy, but a mishap at the dock ends with Nathan on a ship to New York City instead. Leda Schubert’s prose is filled with geography, persecution of Jews, ship travel, Ellis Island, and immigration; all which make Nathan’s Song superb enrichment to a Social Studies curriculum. Young readers will relish the suspense of Nathan’s travels, and the leaving of his cap is an especially poignant symbol of the themes of family commitments and life goals. Nathan learns to speak English, gets a job, and even marries, but will he rejoin his family? Illustrator Maya Ish-Shalom’s use of bold, vibrant colors and geometric shapes in collage illustrations has great appeal for readers of all ages and adds immensely to the prose.  As music lifts our hearts and spirits, so will Leda Shubert’s Nathan’s Song.