Fancy Aunt Jess by Amy Hest

Fancy Aunt Jess

Fancy Aunt Jess

While writing my post about Amy Schwartz and thinking about my favorites among her books, one book that deserved a post all on its own is Fancy Aunt Jess, written by Amy Hest (of The Friday Nights of Nana fame) and illustrated by Amy Schwartz.

I adore this book. I adore how quiet it is and how sweet it is. I love the portrayal of Becky and her affection for her Aunt Jess, who she thinks of as Fancy Aunt Jess. I love that it’s a bit of a romantic book — because ultimately it concerns the fact that Aunt Jess won’t get married until she meets someone who gives her goosebumps — but it’s not over the top and embarrassing. It’s a bit of a girl book but both my boys sat through it (my oldest is already thinking about who he’s going to marry — at 5 — so he had a vested interest in figuring out how the whole marriage thing works).

But most of all, I love the fact that it turns out the characters are Jewish, which you might not have expected. It turns out that when Becky sleeps over at Aunt Jess’ house, one of the things they do is go to (a clearly Reform) shul on Shabbat. And that in fact, that’s where Aunt Jess meets Harry (uncle to a Becky-like girl Nicole). And I love the fact that the last page of the book features the two getting married — cute and romantic but not Disney — under a chuppah. Just like it’s normal for a chuppah to be the last page of a book. The characters being Jewish is really no big deal to them, it’s not a big part of the story, it’s a character in the story, a detail.

“Mama, they’re Jewish!” my 5-year old yelped when we got to the part where they go to shul. “Just like we’re Jewish.” He sees Jewish people in books all the time, but they are always Jewish books. This one just slipped it in and that made all the difference.

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