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The Length of a String

4.39  ·  Rating details ·  612 ratings  ·  140 reviews
Imani is adopted, and she's ready to search for her birthparents. But when she discovers the diary her Jewish great-grandmother wrote chronicling her escape from Holocaust-era Europe, Imani begins to see family in a new way.

Imani knows exactly what she wants as her big bat mitzvah gift: to meet her birthparents. She loves her family and her Jewish community in Baltimore, b
Hardcover, 384 pages
Published May 1st 2018 by Dial Books
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Katherine Locke
Jan 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Wow, wow, wow. This book is really special. Highly recommend for all middle school bookshelves, and it should be easy to tie into curriculum. Beautiful wonderful book.

This is the story of Imani, an adopted Black girl in a Jewish family, who discovers her great-grandmother's diary, telling the story of that 12 year old girl's escape from Europe in 1941. And at the same time, Imani wants to know about where SHE came from, her bio family. The book addresses Imani's feelings about Judaism, where she
Well that made me cry. (But in a good way.)
Alex  Baugh
Twelve-year-old Imani Mandel was told she could have anything she wanted as her Bat Mitzvah gift. And she knows just what she wants, but she's too afraid to ask for it. Imani was adopted and now she is wondering about her biological parents and wants to know who she is and who they are. It's especially important to her since she is a young black girl and her parents are a white Jewish couple, albeit very loving parents.

As part of their Bat Mitzvah preparations, everyone in Imani's hebrew school
Feb 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Lynne
This is an extremely well-written and engrossing novel connecting the past to the present.
In 2014, Imani's great-grandmother Anna dies leaving all of her books to her great-grandchildren. Among the stacks, Imani discovers Anna's journal from 1941. Anna chronicles her journey from Luxembourg to America. Sent to live with a family in the Bensonhurst section of Brooklyn Anna must not only adapt to life in a new country, new school, new language and culture, but also cope without her news of her fam
⚓Its me Irina the READER⚓
This book is about a 12 year old girl named Imani! She was adopted by a Jewish family at a very young age! At the time of her bat mitzvah her parents said that she ask for anything ! So Imani desperately want to find out more abut her biological parents! But how will she say it without hurting her parents feelings.
Meanwhile her great-grandma Anna has passed. So when she goes through her great-grandma's book shelf she found a diary dated back in the 1940s! As Imani reads the diary she uncovers s
Oct 15, 2020 rated it really liked it
What a powerful middle grade novel exploring themes such as family (both biological and found families) identity, religion, and the ties that bind.
Imani is such a plucky and fearless young heroine. She loves her family dearly, she has great friends, and her backhand in tennis is second to non, but feels as if some piece of her is missing-- she's adopted and she has never learned anything about her birth mother or birth father. She is an African-American young girl adopted into a White, Jewish f
Teresa Osgood
Oct 09, 2020 rated it really liked it
This story covers a lot of tough bases--adoption, race, and the Holocaust, not to mention being twelve and growing up in general. But Imani and her family and friends are believable and (mostly) likeable, and her family history was as enchanting for me as it was for her. Also, it's hardly the climax of the story, but I just loved Chapter 4. ...more
Susan  Dunn
Feb 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Anna and her twin Belle are identical. They live in Luxembourg with their parents and siblings. It is 1941 and Hitler has invaded the small country. All the Jews, including Anna and Belle's family must wear yellow stars on their coats. All of those who can get out are doing so, getting to America if they can - but it's very expensive. Anna's parents decide that some of the children must get out now, and the rest of the family will follow as soon as they can. Anna is to go to her father's second ...more
This one made me cry. Imani is a black girl adopted into a Jewish family, and is now preparing for her bat mitzvah. Some months before that event, her great-grandmother, Anna, dies, and she inherits Anna’s diary of the year she was 12, 1941. Anna was sent from her family in Luxembourg to live with relatives in NYC by herself, and records her sorrows, hopes, and joys. Imani reads this journal and wrestles with how to tell her parents about her interest in her own biological parents. Well done, an ...more
Jan 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This should be required reading. Seeing into the life and past life of this fictional family paints a really solid picture that shows determination, hope, love, loss, and kindness all wrapped up in a page turner that feels real.
In spite of this fairly common trope - connecting the past to the present through a diary - I found this book engrossing and worthwhile. The characters are well-drawn and the story interesting. The connections between past and present are sometimes a bit tenuous, but, in a way, that only adds to the feeling that sometimes you just can't know everything and you must accept what you do know.

Aside: in this digital age, I wonder what will take the place of these olden-days, relatively ubiquitous di
Mar 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Such a great book. I loved this unusual take on the holocaust and the two different time periods this takes place in. Really glad I stumbled on this and will definitely be recommending it.
Janet Hutchinson
What a well thought out story. The combination of Imani's desire to find her birth mother, coupled with her great-grandmother's story of leaving Luxembourg to come to the States, to escape the Holocaust, was tied together really well. I quite enjoyed this, and can think of several students who will really like it. ...more
Oct 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Such a great book! I loved the bit of historical fiction blended with a coming of age story. Such a feel good story of learning who you are and being happy with your family.
Vanessa Ehrlich
Aug 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: ya, holocaust
This is a great read for Middle School kids as they start their B'nai Mitzvah studies. A Holocaust story which is also connected to a current day story of adoption and what it feels like to be a stranger in a new place. ...more
Phinn McKeon
Oct 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
The story and plot line of this book will keep you interested from the moment you start to the moment you finish. Written in chapters where you get bits of the dairy and bits of Imani's life. Imani has always been interested in her birth family and where she's from, but since she's adopted and doesn't remember her family and her "mom" is sensitive she isn't able to talk to the rest of her family about it. When her adopted mother's grandmother, Anna, dies her family goes to her house to sort out ...more
Martha Marani
Dec 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Martha by: middle grade readers
The Length of a String is a moving tale of how people are woven into a family. In two parallel stories—one told in the present and one in the time of World War II—we meet Imani, the adopted daughter of Jewish parents and one of the few black people in her community, and her great-grandmother Anna, the only member of her family to be sent to America to escape Nazi-occupied Luxembourg. Imani prepares for her bat mitzvah, aching to know her birth parents. Anna writes letters in a journal to her ide ...more
Ms. Yingling
May 06, 2018 rated it liked it
Public Library Copy

Imani was adopted as an infant by a Jewis family in Baltimore. Although she knows that her biological heritage is mostly African-American, she enjoys her Hebrew school and Jewish family traditions when her great grandmother Anna dies, she and her cousins get to pick out books, and Imani finds Anna's diary. Enthralled by the story, Imani and her friend Madeline read the diary in secret for a while, but eventually share it with Imani's family. As her bat mitzvah is approaching,
This was amazing. And I'm totally annoyed at myself for waiting to read it for so long. A totally different take on the Holocaust and Jewish identity. Highly recommended for grades 5 & up. ...more
Jaina Rose
Oct 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This review, and many more like it, are available on Read Till Dawn .

I loved it.

There's no point beating around the bush. I really, really enjoyed reading this book. I love reading about Imani's struggles to fit in as a black adoptee in a white Jewish neighborhood. I love how Weissman portrayed Imani's thirst for knowledge about her birth family, while still loving her adoptive family more than anything. I love that her little brother is also adopted but has no interest in his birth parents, 
Valerie McEnroe
Imani is a black girl who was adopted into a white Jewish family at birth. Her adopted mother's grandmother, Anna, has just died leaving all of her books to her great grandchildren. While looking through the books, Imani discovers Anna's diary. The story alternates between Imani's present day life as she prepares for her Bat Mitzvah and the quiet moments when she reads Anna's diary. Anna's diary begins in 1941 in Luxembourg during the German occupation. Her parents see the escalating crisis for ...more
Dec 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Alexa Hamilton
Jul 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
Imani is approaching her bat mitzvah and wants to find more answers about herself. She is adopted and black, so she has always had to deal with her skin color and her religion. Now she wants to find more answers about her birth family, but she's afraid asking will upset her parents who don't talk about her adoption. In the midst of this, she finds her great-grandma Anna's diary after Anna dies and starts reading it. It's the story of Anna being sent away to live in the US with distant cousins du ...more
Patricia Tilton
Dec 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is a very different holocaust story because it focuses on the identity of Jewish and African-American girls (70 years a part) and their search for self, something that readers will find relevant. The setting, the unforgettable characters, and the plot create an engaging reading experience.

Anna Kirsch has to choose one of their seven children to smuggle to America as the Nazi’s begin to occupy Luxembourg. Anna is selected and separated from her identical twin sister, Belle, the other half o
Donna Siebold
Jun 30, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: the-hub-2019
Imani knows she is different. She is adopted, she is Jewish and she is black. Her parents are white.

As Imani prepares for her bat mitzvah she becomes more unsettled and interested in finding out more about her biological parents.

Then her maternal grandmother dies. She left all of her books to Imani and her other grandchildren. As Imani is separating the items, she finds a diary. A diary written by her grandmother Anna, when she first came to the United States. Until now Imani has known little ab
Hannah Grippo
Mar 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I love children's novel about being Jewish, but there's not that many out there (beyond Holocaust Literature, which is so important, but not the only thing that defines being a Jew). So I was excited to learn of this new book, and I read it from cover to cover in one day! It's written from two very different voices and perspectives. Anna, who escapes her home in WWII, and is adopted by an American couple. Also her granddaughter, Imani, also adopted. As Imani prepares for Bat-Mitzvah, she begins ...more
Kristin- Shabby Chic Reader
Mar 28, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-2020
I really enjoyed this book!

Everyone wants to know who they are and where they came from. Imani is no different, although she feels she is different. She is a black girl living with her adoptive white parents, has a South American adopted brother and their family is Jewish. She has no idea who her biological parents are or what her heritage is. Her adoptive parents tend to be sensitive and hush, hush about her background so she is afraid to ask them for help in finding out about her family.

Jun 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Picked this up on a whim at the book store and pulled it out of the TBR stack today. Imani, preparing for her bat mitzvah and trying to figure out how to approach her parents about researching her biological parents, discovers a connection with her great grandmother Anna that helps her navigate the present. The use of Anna’s diary is well done, allowing you to be equally drawn into both girls lives— Anna in the 40s and Imani today.

This would be a terrific read got a novels class, as there are m
Dec 16, 2020 rated it really liked it
this was the most adorable book. i enjoyed it so thoroughly, and my heart was so warmed.

imani ((our protagonist)) is celebrating her bat mitzvah, and is researching the holocaust for a hebrew school project when she stumbles upon her great grandmother's diary from when she was 13 years old. throughout the course of the story imani learns about her great grandmother, anna's difficult journey while trying to find a way to learn about where she came from and what her journey was as an adopted chil
Cindy Mitchell *Kiss the Book*
The Length of a String by Elissa Weissman. 375 pgs., Penguin Young Readers Group, $17.99 Language: G(0 swears, 0 “F”); Mature Content: PG; Violence: G


Imani loves her family, but she can’t help but wonder where she came from. She knows she is adopted and feels secluded from the rest of her family. However, when Imani’s great-grandmother dies, she finds a journal that describes Great-grandma Anna’s journey to America from Luxembourg. While she reads, Imani sees her family in a
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Elissa Brent Weissman is an award-winning author of novels for young readers. Best known for the popular Nerd Camp series, she and her books have been featured in Entertainment Weekly, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, The Huffington Post, NPR’s “Here and Now,” and more. Named one of CBS Baltimore’s Best Authors in Maryland, Elissa spent many years in Baltimore City, where she taught cre ...more

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  Tami Charles is a former teacher and the author of picture books, middle grade and young adult novels, and nonfiction. As a teacher, she made...
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“I was looking up my name,” I told her. “Did you know that Imani means faith in Swahili? ”
I watched Mom’s face to see if her eyebrows would go up or down. It was like I was in science class, recording the color change of a piece of litmus paper. The result was better than I could have hoped: One eyebrow up!
“Really?” Mom said, sounding genuinely interested. “Your Hebrew name means faith too. They must come from the same root. ” pg 138”
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