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About The Book

A sixteen-year-old stowaway discovers her destiny on Noah’s ark in this riveting reimagining from award-winning author Donna Jo Napoli, available in time for the March 2014 major motion picture Noah.

The rain starts suddenly, hard and fast. After days of downpour, her family lost, Sebah takes shelter in a tree, eating pine cones and the raw meat of animals that float by. With each passing day, her companion, a boy named Aban, grows weaker. When their tree is struck by lightning, Sebah is tempted just to die in the flames rather than succumb to a slow, watery death. Instead, she and Aban build a raft. What they find on the stormy seas is beyond imagining: a gigantic ark. But Sebah does not know what she’ll find on board, and Aban is too weak to leave their raft.

Themes of family, loss, and ultimately, survival and love make for a timeless story. Donna Jo Napoli has imagined a new protagonist to tell the story of Noah and his ark. As rain batters the earth, Noah, his family, and hordes of animals wait out the storm, ready to carry out their duty of repopulating the earth. Hidden below deck…is Sebah.


Each row has exactly as many pods as my fingers—ten. And there are exactly as many rows as my fingers on one hand. Five. I’ve laid them out on the ground perfectly. It’s my job to tie precisely fifty bean pods into the cloth because I’m good at numbers, better than my parents. When the cart is full of these cloth parcels, my little brothers will bring them to market. An open cart of beans is vulnerable. Any passing person can snatch a handful, and since a handful is worth nothing in barter, the thief won’t even get in trouble. By the time an open cart of beans reaches market, the vendor might have nothing left. But tied in cloth, the beans matter—anyone who tried to steal would get a public flogging.

So I count with care. And I tie the cloth tight, but not so tight that the knot is hard to undo. When my brothers trade the beans, they will untie the cloth and dump the beans into each customer’s basket. The saved bits of cloth come back to me. My brothers are supposed to be careful, but they aren’t always. Especially if they’re rushing because there’s another customer waiting. And if the cloth rips, it’s my job to repair it. I hate that job. I’m better at counting. And planting. I love planting. Someday, when I have my own children, I’ll grow every kind of fruit and green and feed them lavishly. They’ll love the evening meal, everyone talking and laughing.

I look out over the bean field now. Planting season is past. This is the last harvest of summer. My naturally dark skin is even darker now; just a few shades lighter than my hair, since the sun has been dying the one while bleaching the other.

I love going to market almost as much as I love planting. It’s exciting to see all the people with all their wares. I used to go often. But ever since my body changed, Father has insisted I stay at home. I’m thin—only rich people aren’t—but I’m womanly now. Someone in town could grab me, pull me between buildings, into a dark place, alone.

No one’s allowed to do that. But it happens. Years ago, a girl told. I know, because when I protested at being left behind on market days, Mamma sat me down and explained it all. The girl told on a man, a city man. He was beaten, despite his wealth. A couple of moons later, another girl stumbled home with blood gushing from her mouth. Her tongue had been cut out. I imagined her choking to death, drowning in her own blood. When they went to wash her corpse, they found blood crusted on her thighs.

In all the years since, no girls have told.

Mamma says if you stray into town alone and it happens to you, it’s your own fault. Father says girls shouldn’t be alone anywhere close to town. If they are, they’re asking for it. Town is lawless when it comes to girls. Everyone knows that.

I hold up a bean pod into the bright sunlight. I’m gigantic compared to this pod, but in town anyone can steal me just the same.

A drop of water hits the pod. I twist around quickly. What idiot did that? The beans have to stay dry. One wet bean can rot a whole batch. I don’t see anyone nearby, though. The culprit is fast. I slit the length of the pod with my thumbnail and scrape the inside against my bottom teeth, so the beans pop off into my mouth. Beans taste better cooked, but I’ve always liked the crunch of ones straight from the pod, and five little raw beans aren’t enough to give a stomachache.

Water comes. A huge splash, like a bucket dumped on my head. But it’s the entire sky that’s dumping. One moment ago the sky was clear. Now, just like that, the clouds darken it and fat drops come in profusion, hitting the ground so hard they bounce before bursting.

I grab as many parcels of beans as I can and run toward the house. The rain comes so fast now, I can’t see past my own arm. And it’s dark. As though day ceased in a blink. I burst through the door and stand dripping into the dry grasses that cover the dirt floor of the small main room.

Mamma has already lit the candle that sits in the middle of the table. “Rain this time of year. It’s a whole month early.” She shakes her head with a look of confusion on her face and turns again to face the loom. “I suppose we should be grateful. The way it’s coming down, we won’t have to carry buckets to water the field for days. I just hope this doesn’t mean an early winter. We aren’t ready for winter yet.”

I put the beans on the table. I lift the pouch that hangs from my neck over my head and drop it on the table too. It hits with a small thunk, because of the knife inside it. I peel off my tunic with difficulty—the wet wool clings to my torso—and drape it over the bench. Instantly the swamp kit screams to be picked up.

“Scruffy kit,” I say. “You’re a strange one.”


I put my face to his. “You waited till I took off my soaked things before you demanded to be picked up. You waited on purpose, didn’t you?”

My brothers found this kit in the wetlands last week—that’s his natural home. But he seems not to like water at all. The boys find that hilarious. They’ve taken to filling their mouths with water and spraying it at him, then rolling with laughter as he races to hide behind me. They can be so nasty, those boys.

I close my hand over the kit’s head, something the little creature likes. I’m glad my brothers brought him home. Kits born so late in the season don’t have much chance of survival. “Hey, little kit, lucky little kit. What have you been doing all morning?”

He pulls his head away and swats at me playfully. But Mamma now moves to the side of the loom, so I don’t have time to play more. Her small hands are already at work. My hands are bigger and stronger, but hers are more clever. I quickly kneel at the opposite side of the loom. We pass the shuttle back and forth between us. It’s faster this way, even though Mamma is adept on her own.

The kit won’t be put off that easily, though. He goes to climb my side, digs his claws into my thigh. With a quick swipe, I lift him to my shoulder, not missing a pass of the shuttle. I glance down. Two lines of blood bubbles rise on that thigh. The little creature turns in a precarious circle in that space between my shoulder and neck and he tickles bad.

“I know you hate my wet hair,” I say. “But you picked that spot. So sit still or get off.” Finally he settles, curled under the drape of my hair.

The shuttle goes back and forth in a steady rhythm. The kit’s breath is just as rhythmic against my skin. But the noise of the rain, the dull thrum on the roof, is chaotic. It fills the air. Usually we sing as we work, but now we don’t even talk.

My brothers must have taken shelter somewhere nearby. They knew if they came home, Mamma would set them to work on the mice skins that soak in the waste bucket. The urine and feces have done their job by now. It’s time to fish the skins out of the stink and scrape off the loosened hairs so Mamma can sew Papa a new carry bag. Jackal skins make a better bag—they’re bigger, so the bag isn’t crisscrossed with so many seams. And the skin is thicker, so they last longer. If they don’t get stolen. That’s the problem. Papa won’t carry anything but a mouse-skin bag into town these days.

“You’re looking at that bucket.” Mamma screws up her mouth. “You’d do the job faster than your brothers. And better.”

Oh no. Cleaning those skins will be a foul job.

“But forget it,” she says. “Papa won’t risk the stink on your hands.”

I lower my head to hide my smile. One advantage of being a girl. Papa must protect my reputation so he can marry me off, which won’t be for another couple of years if Mamma has her way. I’m already sixteen, but Mamma says I’m too useful to give up. That’s just as well with me. My friend Hurriya’s father told her to pick a husband fast or he’ll marry her off this autumn. Her younger sisters can do all the chores she does—so they don’t need her. She’s worried all the time. I’m lucky to be needed. It gives me time to find a husband who suits me.

A gust of wind bursts through the window. The candle goes out. It’s black as midnight in the room.

Mamma gets the flint, and with a smack the candle is alight again.

Another gust of wind. Black again. I can make out the bulk of Mamma standing there. Waiting. She curves forward these days, like a long-handled spoon.

“I’ll close the shutters.” I disentangle the swamp kit from my hair and set him on the floor. He screams. I go to lean out the window, but the wind is too strong to pull the shutters. So instead I walk toward the door.

“No, Sebah. Don’t go out in that. It can’t last long.” Mamma lights the hearth fire, though it isn’t time to prepare the evening meal yet. “There, let’s see the wind that’s strong enough to put that out.”

I kneel at the side of the loom again, and the yowling kit leaps into my hands. But Mamma stays standing. So I get up and stand at Mamma’s side. I’m taller than her, the way she stoops. That makes her seem weaker. An urge of protectiveness seizes me; I want to fold my arms around her. But Mamma has little tolerance for such nonsense. We look out at the rain while I run my hand over the kit’s pointy ears.

Lightning pierces the sky—a handful of streaks at once—like the five fingers of an angry god. Is it Ba’al? Then the roll of thunder. That’s Ba’al’s voice.

“I can’t remember a rain so harsh.” Mamma scratches her cheek. “At this rate, we’ll have a flash flood.”

I take a step closer to Mamma. Our arms touch. “What’s that?”

“I saw one once. The riverbed beside our home was dry. Then it poured and in no time at all it was a raging torrent. It overflowed the banks and swirled through our home, so deep, you’d have thought we had built it in the river itself. It washed away almost everything we owned. It would have washed us away if my father hadn’t tied us to the roof beams. It was crazy. Even streams turned wild.”

“Oh!” My hand flies to my mouth. “I bet they’re in the cave!” The cave is on the far side of the stream.

Mamma’s eyes instantly widen. “My boys.”

“I’ll get them.” I grab for my mantle.

Mamma catches her arm. “Put on your tunic first.”

“It’s sopping.” I’ve already wrapped the mantle around myself. I tie it at the front. The kit sinks his claws into the cloth. I try to dislodge him, but he screams and digs deeper.

“Let the stubborn thing ride on your shoulder if he insists. He’ll jump off fast enough and come screeching back here. Go, Sebah! Run!”

I step out into a downpour that is far worse than it looked from the window, and from the window it looked hateful. I know the way with my eyes closed, though. And even if I didn’t, the stream would tell me, for in this very moment it grows noisy. It roars. I run. The flaps of the mantle slap against my legs in a tangle. I fall, and get up quick and lift the mantle above my knees, clutching with both hands, and I run. I run past our field, past another field, through the small stand of woods, out into the meadow where skinny cows stand like mottled stone in the downpour.

To the stream at last. It’s high. It flows faster than any water I’ve ever seen. And it’s not the clear water it’s always been; it’s brown with mud.

On the other side are my brothers, all three of them. They stand at the mouth of the cave in water ankle deep, holding hands. I can see their heads bobbing, as though they’re agreeing with one another. “Come!” I beckon them with a huge wave of the arm. They have to get out of there before the waters rise higher and they’re trapped. “Come home! Now!” I shout and shout.

They come out, one behind the other, and they have to drop hands now. They step from stone to stone. But the water’s already over the surface of the high stones and it’s fast, it’s so fast. With a scream Barak is knocked off his feet. Talas reaches to pull him back, but he slips too. They plummet downstream into deeper, faster waters. The third in line is little Amare, only in his eighth year. He doesn’t scream or shout. He teeters, arms held out to both sides, pressing against the raging waters. He has to make it. “Amare!”

I jump into the stream and am instantly thrown off my feet. No! Where is he? I can’t see anything. I can’t regain my footing, so I scrabble to all fours and look around. Amare’s gone. “Where are you?”

They’re all gone. I’m shouting and flailing around for them, but they’re gone.

And the stream is a roiling river. I claw my way to the closest edge—the far edge—and roll away. The water follows me. The river widens by the second. An uprooted sapling slams into me. Then another. I get to my feet and run at a slant, uphill. The ground is mud now. It sucks at my feet. I clump as fast as I can. The water swirls around my calves.

A fox goes swimming past! A mountain fox, way down here!

I look back. The cows on the field on the other side of the stream are gone. Maybe it’s just that I can’t see them through the sheet of rain. They’ve got to be there. Cows are big.

My brothers. I turn in a circle. They’re nowhere to be seen.

The water is at my knees.

The ground here is a gradual incline, and the water is climbing fast. I head for the promontory, where it’s bare rock going nearly straight up. I grit my teeth; I’m not a good climber. Amare is the best climber in the family.

I slog through the water and at least now it’s pushing at me from behind. It takes so long to get to the rock face. The water is at my waist now. It crashes against the limestone. I climb, feet and fingers seeking crevices, jamming in and hooking. Higher and higher.

I’m out of the water at last. I’m panting. Everything is so slippery. I have to keep moving or I’ll slide into the pool below. But I can’t keep moving. I have no energy.

Something falls somewhere, splat into the water below. It splashes the back of my legs. Move! I reach up, and, what? My hand flaps around in an opening. I pull myself up so my eyes are level with that hand. It’s a small area, not a cave, not even a proper ledge, just a rock shelf. But at least it offers a respite from the work of clinging. I climb onto it and sit, my knees against my chest, my arms tight around them. I know my fingers bleed, but I don’t want to suck on them. I want to keep my knees as close to my chest as possible, and the only way to do that is to hold them in place with my arms. I must stay curled. I must shrink into a tight stone that can fend off the elements.

Perhaps the rain lessens a little or perhaps my eyes somehow work better, because for an instant I can see far out below—it seems like far—and all I see is water.

Mamma, Papa, Barak, Talas, Amare. I swallow. But they’re all stronger than me. All except Amare. They’re already on high ground. They have to be. When it stops raining, we will find one another, the whole family.

Something pinches my neck. I slap at it in terror. But it’s the swamp kit. Soaked to the bone. I pull on him till he comes free, strands of yarn still caught under his claws. He held on like a devilish fiend! Good. Good for him. I curl him into a ball under my chin, and I cradle him there with one hand closed over his head.

About The Author

Photo Credit:

Donna Jo Napoli is the acclaimed and award-winning author of many novels, both fantasies and contemporary stories. She won the Golden Kite Award for Stones in Water in 1997. Her novel Zel was named an American Bookseller Pick of the Lists, a Publishers Weekly Best Book, a Bulletin Blue Ribbon, and a School Library Journal Best Book, and a number of her novels have been selected as ALA Best Books. She is a professor of linguistics at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania, where she lives with her husband. Visit her at

Product Details

  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books (February 11, 2014)
  • Length: 368 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781481403023
  • Grades: 9 and up
  • Ages: 14 - 99
  • Lexile ® HL520L The Lexile reading levels have been certified by the Lexile developer, MetaMetrics®

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Raves and Reviews

This guttural rendition of Noah’s Ark becomes an intriguing piece of historical fiction in the hands of master storyteller Napoli. Sebah, the daughter of a Canaanite farmer in the third millennium BCE, is swept up into the devastating flood, first surviving on a small peak and then a raft before stowing away on the ark. Sweeping the reader directly into an action-packed story, the book begins on “Day 1” and continues through the 40 days of rain and the 330 days of receding water. The first person present tense and gritty survival story will resonate with fans of The Hunger Games, but Napoli packs deeper themes into the murky depths of this tale. The reader comes to know Sebah quite intimately, and the author creates a wonderfully immersive experience. The chapter titles sometimes indicate a range of days, while the action continues in a present tense, producing an awkward sense of pacing. Napoli includes the critical aspects of Noah’s and Sebah’s different faiths while sidestepping discussion of religion. The extensive author’s note, time line of biblical verses, and bibliography in the back support the tale’s foundation. Storm features frank but inexplicit discussions of sex, rape, and childbirth. Despite the radically different culture and unique circumstances, teens will connect with this remarkably courageous girl in her primal fight for family and survival.

– School Library Journal

4Q 4P J S
Napoli, Donna Jo. Storm. Simon & Schuster, 2014. 368p. $17.99. 978-1-4814-0302-3.

While living peacefully in Canaan, sixteen-year-old Sebah spends her days cultivating bean pods for her brothers to sell in the market. One day, it begins to rain and it does not stop. The flood takes her home and the lives of her family members. To escape the rising waters, she climbs higher through the mountains, clinging to tree branches and surviving on the meat of animals that float by. Her only companion is a swamp kit until she crosses paths with Aban, another survivor. Together they work to protect and feed each other. When the waters reach their highest, Sebah and Aban are forced to flee their shelter in a tree and float on a makeshift raft. Aban becomes increasingly weak and survival seems hopeless until one day, their raft becomes snagged on a rope. At the other end of the rope is a boat of behemoth proportions—an ark. Sebah’s only choice is to climb the rope to save their lives. What she does not know is just how different life is about to become.

In this retelling of the biblical tale of Noah’s Ark, Napoli takes readers on a journey of “what if.” What if others had survived the flood, too? Most of the story takes place in a single setting, the ark; however, Napoli is able to keep the momentum at a swift and sometimes frightening pace. What happens inside the ark seems greater than what is happening outside of it. Readers will feel all the anxiety, anticipation, fear, and hopelessness along with the people confined to the ark. The strained relationships among those aboard the ark are just as fascinating as the relationships between the humans and the animals. In the end, a global tragedy brings about enlightenment in ways unexpected by the characters. This is a tale of survival, empathy, and having faith.—Erin Segreto.


Young, newly pregnant Sebah manages to survive the great flood on a small raft before she bumps into
Noah’s humongous ark. Crawling into a porthole for safety, she finds herself in a cage with a pair of
bonobos who care for her and hide her from Noah and his family. While trapped aboard, Sebah feels the
despair of a ruined world and the stir-craziness of confinement right along with all the animals, with whom
she deeply empathizes. But in the midst of the hopelessness of the deluge, Sebah delights in the
playfulness of her animal friends and the affections of a handsome fellow stowaway, and she resolves to
look forward to the future, despite the grief for the life she left behind. Napoli (Skin, 2013) draws from the
book of Genesis for a basic outline, but she takes ample liberties with the rest of the story, presenting an
obstinate, guilt-ridden Noah and an angry family resentful over their wretched circumstances, all through
the eyes of a clever, headstrong young girl who learns to thrive on hope.

– Booklist

The rains come without warning, and before 16-year-old Sebah can do anything to stop it, everything in her life is swept away by the flood --- her family, their farm, their home and the Canaan that she knows. The storm rages on as she climbs to higher ground with a scrawny kitten named Screamer and a fisher boy named Aban, all three sustaining injuries and near-starvation as they try to build a life together in a doomed world. Sebah, Screamer and Aban slowly weaken as the rain pours ceaselessly on and the water levels rise. But even the highest cedar trees cannot keep them above the rising waters forever, and even the raft they built cannot sustain them for long.

When an enormous ship floats by, Sebah realizes it is her only chance for survival. With her kitten, she abandons the raft. Hiding onboard, Sebah befriends a clever pair of bonobos and begins piecing together the struggles of the family living on the ark, a family led by a prophet named Noah. the destructive waters roll ceaselessly around her, Sebah's journey is one of profound hope and personal growth.

Through 40 days and 40 nights of rain and the months of a flooded world afterward, Sebah's struggles and triumphs are intriguing and real. Donna Jo Napoli's proclivity for well-researched settings shines here, as we see the cultural influences of ancient Canaan alongside the life-or-death expediencies of stowing away on a boat when the other inhabitants would throw interlopers overboard. The plot is slow and subtle, as can be expected in a novel with such a small space for action. Yet as the destructive waters roll ceaselessly around her, Sebah's journey is one of profound hope and personal growth.

STORM, an intimate reimagination of the biblical flood, shows the triumph of one determined human spirit in the face of a divine catastrophe.


This guttural rendition of Noah’s Ark becomes an intriguing piece of historical fiction in the hands of master storyteller Napoli. Sebah, the daughter of a Canaanite farmer in the third millennium BCE, is swept up into the devastating flood, first surviving on a small peak and then a raft before stowing away on the ark. Sweeping the reader directly into an action-packed story, the book begins on “Day 1” and continues through the 40 days of rain and the 330 days of receding water. The first person present tense and gritty survival story will resonate with fans of The Hunger Games, but Napoli packs deeper themes into the murky depths of this tale. The reader comes to know Sebah quite intimately, and the author creates a wonderfully immersive experience. . . . Napoli includes the critical aspects of Noah’s and Sebah’s different faiths while sidestepping discussion of religion. The extensive author’s note, time line of biblical verses, and bibliography in the back support the tale’s foundation. Storm features frank but inexplicit discussions of sex, rape, and childbirth. Despite the radically different culture and unique circumstances, teens will connect with this remarkably courageous girl in her primal fight for family and survival.

– School Library Journal

The rain starts like any other rain with a dark cloud and a few drops, but then the deluge relentlessly continues. By the third day, sixteen-year-old Sebah has lost her brothers and her home to the flooding; by the second week, she is starving and stranded in a tree until a boy from her village finds her, they build a raft, and he claims her, with her consent, as his wife. By the end of the month, however, he too has been swept away and, before meeting the same fate herself, she manages to climb aboard a giant ark. Yes, it is indeed Noah’s ark and since she’s aware that her status as a stowaway on the ship defies Noah’s plan, Sebah decides her best bet is to hide with the animals below. As the rains continue, however, and Sebah’s belly grows heavy with a baby, her survival may depend on revealing herself. Napoli mines the Biblical story—one of the original apocalyptic tales—to find a different spiritual subtext, transforming it from a tale not about obeying the will of God but about how the very act of survival is sometimes the greatest leap of faith of all. The book depicts Noah as a man struggling with an enormous burden, and his strict reliance on his faith acts as a direct foil to the non-religious Sebah, whose reasons for living are bound both literally and figuratively to the fertile earth (she’s a gardener in addition to being pregnant). There is room, and perhaps requirement, for both types of faith in Napoli’s interpretation, and the ultimate survival of Sebah’s and Noah’s families underscores that message. Fans of Life of Pi will find a similar blend of gritty survivalism and spiritual contemplation in this maelstrom of a tale. KQG

– BCCB, March 2014

In this amazing story of Noah and the Flood, Donna Jo Napoli uses ancient


as well as her own modern Midrash to realistically take us to the

antediluvian world as it was moments before the rains began. We follow Sebah,

a sixteen-year-old girl, who runs out of her house to find her brothers when the

rains begin. She immediately gets caught by a flash flood and is carried far down

her local river before she can grab onto a ledge. Keeping hold of her pet cat, she

scales upward in search of food, avoids wild animals, and watches the world

disappear. Eventually, she meets a young boy, Aban, who “takes” Sebah as his

own. They stay alive until they manage to reach the top of the tallest tree and

when lightning strikes, they build a raft. Instead of dying, they come in contact with an enormous

ship! When all their cries for help go unheeded, Sebah climbs a rope dangling from the side of the

ark. Promising to survive, she leaves the weak and dying Aban on the raft. Sebah finds shelter and

safety on the ark, inside the cage housing the bonobos. With the apes’ assistance, she manages to

survive. A series of interesting and entertaining events take place while Sebah lives “invisibly” on

the ark, including her discovery of another stowaway.

The writing is exceptional. Well-crafted and engaging, it is difficult to put the book down.

Chapters are headed by the rain count (e.g. “Day 24”, “Night 85”, “Days 357-370”). Descriptions of

the strain on Noah and his family, as well as the animals’ behavior as they react to being “stuck” on

the Ark are vivid and realistic. There is some sexual content, although not particularly graphic as

well as some fairly explicit violence. The world before the Flood was not a kind one and survival was

not for the weak of heart. Superb writing and a unique story combine to make this a recommended

purchase for Jewish libraries.

– Association of Jewish Libraries

Sixteen-year-old Sebah, a Canaanite girl, survives a massive flood that kills her family. As the rains continue for weeks on end, she and another survivor, Aban, are forced to build a raft to escape the rising waters. Barely alive, they encounter a giant boat—Noah’s ark, as it turns out—but only Sebah is strong enough to climb the rope someone has let down from a porthole. Exhausted and grief-stricken, Sebah finds herself in a cage with a pair of bonobos, with whom she soon bonds and names Queen and The Male. Bonobos, readers learn, are capable of compassion and empathy (hence the rescue and their decision to keep Sebah hidden from Noah). Bonobos are also known to be very, very sexually active; thankfully, Queen decides she is Sebah’s protector and that the girl is off-limits for The Male. (Phew!) Napoli’s story thoroughly humanizes Noah and his family—loyal to God but traumatized by the human devastation and frustrated with their fate. Readers witness the emotional and physical toll, on both humans and animals, of weeks of darkness and rain, then months of captivity, and will admire resourceful Sebah’s ability to make the best of an oppressive situation. The characters (including the loyal bonobos—and another human stowaway) that Napoli creates to flesh out her retelling of the classic story of survival and faith add both veracity and depth.

– The Horn Book

Awards and Honors

  • Bank Street Best Children's Book of the Year Selection Title
  • Sydney Taylor Book Award Winner
  • National Jewish Book Award Finalist

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