Young Estrella loves to visit her Tía Fortuna in her lovely seaside home, the Seaway, in Miami, Fla. Estrella knows that her elderly aunt used to live across the sea in Havana, Cuba, but was forced to leave her home with just a small suitcase and a few possessions, including a mezuzah, a small box holding a parchment scroll with the Shema prayer spoken daily by Jewish people and placed on the right doorpost of their homes. Now, Tía Fortuna has to move again, since the Seaway is being demolished to make way for a luxury hotel.
But surprisingly, Tía Fortuna is at peace with the move, telling Estrella about her Sephardic ancestors—Jews who were forced out of Spain in the late 1400s and who dispersed to numerous countries: “We come from people who found hope wherever they went.”
Estrella and her mother help Tía Fortuna settle in her new apartment. When they say goodbye, Tía Fortuna gives Estrella the key to her old apartment at the Seaway even though it is no longer useful. The gift carries on a Sephardic tradition. In an author’s note, Ruth Behar explains, “The legend says that the Sephardim carried the keys of the homes they lost wherever they went, and that gave them hope for the journey ahead.”
Illustrator Devon Horzwarth’s vibrant artwork and author Ruth Behar’s tender narrative portray a child’s growing understanding of the great adversity her ancestors faced and the hope and love that carried them forward. (Knopf Books for Young Readers)