My Guardian Angel: a book review by Sydney Bradley

by Sylvie Weil
The book My Guardian Angel by Sylvie Weil is about the curious and insightful granddaughter of the great Torah commentator Rashi. Twelve year old Elvina lives in the city of Troyes, France in 1096. Unlike most women in her community, she can read and write, and often abandons her ladylike duties around the house to study Torah and write scripts with her grandfather. One of the things her grandfather taught her early on was that every person had a guardian angel watching over them. Elvina calls her angel Mazal, and talks to Mazal throughout the story about her thoughts and worries. Despite her difficulties in doing laundry, or sitting on eggs to keep them warm, all is well for Elvina and her family, until the town falls into great fear and dread due to the news of crusaders coming through the villages for the Jews. One day, when Elvina is home alone, a soldier who doesn’t wish to fight along with the other crusaders comes to her house injured, and she makes the difficult decision to help hide him. By doing this, Elvina risks her family and community’s safety and security.This decision results in her life changing dramatically.
Though I thought the story line of this book was interesting, the writing seemed slightly cliché and hard to follow. Every other chapter would switch off from Elvina’s perspective to a third person perspective, which I thought was odd and didn’t flow nicely. I learned later that this book was translated from French, which partially explains the strange language choice and structure. I recommend this book for 4-6 grades, but the writing was a bit too young for seventh graders. From this book, I learned a lot about how women were treated so differently then the men in this era, even to the extreme that they couldn’t go to school or walk around alone like the boys. In this era, a woman’s only purpose was to be found a husband, which is so different from modern times. I was inspired to learn more about Jewish life and community in this time and place. I found so many similarities, as well as how different these Jews lives were, and how secretive they had to be about their faith.