With the help of her Catholic friend, an eleven-year-old Jewish girl creates a provocative local tourist attraction to save her family’s failing motel.
Buying and moving into the run-down Jewel Motor Inn in upstate New York wasn’t eleven-year-old Miriam Brockman’s dream, but at least it’s an adventure. Miriam befriends Kate, whose grandmother owns the diner next door, and finds comfort in the company of Maria, the motel’s housekeeper, and her Uncle Mordy, who comes to help out for the summer. She spends her free time helping Kate’s grandmother make her famous grape pies and begins to face her fears by taking swimming lessons in the motel’s pool.
But when it becomes clear that only a miracle is going to save the Jewel from bankruptcy, Jewish Miriam and Catholic Kate decide to create their own. Otherwise, the No Vacancy sign will come down for good, and Miriam will lose the life she’s worked so hard to build.
Correlates to the Common Core State Standards in English Language Arts:
Compare and contrast the point of view from which different stories are narrated, including the difference between first- and third-person narrations.
Compare and contrast two or more characters, settings, or events in a story or drama, drawing on specific details in the text (e.g., how characters interact).
Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative language such as metaphors and similes.
Describe how a narrator's or speaker's point of view influences how events are described.
Describe how a particular story's or drama's plot unfolds in a series of episodes as well as how the characters respond or change as the plot moves toward a resolution.
Explain how an author develops the point of view of the narrator or speaker in a text.
A leisurely paced, character-rich tale of family, religious faith, and the human need for the miraculous. Strongly recommended for middle grade collections.
Debut author Cohen displays a knack for storytelling that makes this a thoughtful, engrossing, funny read.
[A] simple story filled with memorable and sympathetic characters
It’s the connections between the characters that really made this story come alive.
This summer-in-a-small-town novel, with a mischief-based premise and an old-fashioned feel, includes plenty of exploration of how Miriam and her family fit into the larger community.
Miriam is a delight, both sarcastic and complex. … sensitive plot layers portray differences between types of Judaism, showing how people of different faiths, languages, ages, and backgrounds can have respectful and close relationships.
Filled with thoughtful, masterful writing, No Vacancy offers readers a wonderful cast of characters, a chance to consider what is right or wrong, to look at differences with tender care and concern, and to look at racism as it exists in society.
Miriam is an intelligent pre-teen with lots of worthy questions [and] the prose is easy to read.
With effortless mastery, Cohen weaves the opposing forces of innocence and corruption, right and wrong, love and hate. STARRED REVIEW