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Children's Fiction 20th Century

Miriam's Secret

by (author) Debby Waldman

Orca Book Publishers
Initial publish date
Oct 2017
20th Century, Farm & Ranch Life, Passover
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Oct 2017
    List Price
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Oct 2017
    List Price

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Where to buy it

Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels

  • Age: 9 to 12
  • Grade: 4 to 7
  • Reading age: 9 to 12


In 1930 nine-year-old Miriam travels by train from Brooklyn to her grandparents' farm in upstate New York. Her grandparents are kind, generous people, but they aren't exactly ideal playmates for a lonely girl. When Miriam is not doing homework in the kitchen with Bubby or helping prepare meals for the migrant workers that Zayde hires to help out on the farm, she plays with the barn kittens born just before she arrived. Those kittens are her only friends, until the day Miriam discovers a young girl hiding in the barn. Cissy and her brother, Joe, who's one of Zayde's farm hands, are on the run from an abusive uncle back in Mississippi. Miriam and Cissy hit it off immediately. But their friendship is tested when Miriam is forced to choose between keeping a promise and doing the right thing.

About the author

Growing up in Utica, N.Y., Debby Waldman loved reading so much that she often fell asleep clutching a book. She wanted to write books when she grew up, but she detoured into journalism school at Syracuse University because journalism seemed a safer bet for earning a living.

Since graduating in 1982, Debby has been a newspaper reporter and a freelance writer. She also earned an MFA in creative writing from Cornell University in 1991, and has taught at Cornell, Ithaca College, St. Lawrence University, and Grant MacEwan College. Her writing has appeared in publications including People, Parents, Glamour, Sports Illustrated, Sports Illustrated for Kids, Publishers Weekly, Chatelaine, the Washington Post, and More Canada. She writes a bi-weekly family column for The Edmonton Journal.

Debby's picturebooks are based on Jewish folk tales. Her first, A Sack Full of Feathers, was short-listed for awards in Alberta, Ontario, and Saskatchewan and was named a 2007 Best Book for Kids and Teens by the Canadian Children's Book Centre. Her second, Clever Rachel, was published in October of 2009 and was one of Resource Links' "The Year's Best". Cindy Revell illustrated both books. Debby's third picture book, Room Enough for Daisy, written with fellow Edmontonian Rita Feutl, is scheduled for publication in October 2011.

Debby lives in Edmonton with her husband and two children. She is available for readings and to conduct writing workshops with students of all ages. When not working on one of her many writing projects, she enjoys reading, cycling, baking, attempting to make nutritionally balanced meals for her family, and ferrying her children to music lessons and sports activities. More information is available on her website:

Debby Waldman's profile page


  • Commended, CCBC Best Books
  • Commended, Bank Street College Best Children's Books of the Year
  • Short-listed, Hackmatack Children's Choice Book Award

Editorial Reviews

"The book is a nice read that includes a sort of comparison of lifestyles: rural versus urban, Northern United States versus Southern United States, and immigrant verses native-born. It also gives readers a nice peek into Jewish culture and traditions, from the Yiddish monikers for grandma and grandpa to the holidays of Purim and Passover to foods like Hamantaschen. The story provides the opportunity to teach children about secrets: knowing when it's ok to keep a secret and knowing when they need to tell a trusted adult."

Resource Links

"Waldman's gentle story speaks to the difficulties of being an ethnic or religious minority, as well as the travails of being underemployed during the Great Depression."


"A warmhearted holiday tale successfully portrays an underrepresented corner of American Judaism."

Kirkus Review

"Waldman's warm, loving depiction of a Russian Jewish family during the Depression is a cozy read that will be treasured by young readers, many of whom will relate to the fish-out-of-water element of her story."

IndiePicks Magazine

"All will enjoy this gentle novel, which furthers goodwill and understanding. Highly Recommended. "

CM Magazine

"In this heart-warming novel about a secret friendship, Debby Waldman tells a story bound up in America's history of depression-era hobos. As Miriam grapples with keeping her friend's secret or doing the right thing, Waldman adeptly brings history alive, painting an engaging portrait of minorities in a small town and showing that cultural differences can bring people together."

Leanne Lieberman, author of <i>The Most Dangerous Thing</i>

"A wonderful, tantalizing and tender tale about how, despite our differences, we all long for the same things: friendship, connection and a sense of purpose."

Monique Polak, award-winning author of <i>What World Is Left</i>

"Miriam's Secret is a fast-paced story that hooks the reader right from the start. It's the perfect friendship tale for ages 8 to 12."

Jewish Book Council

"Filled to the brim with literary devices like foreshadowing, imagery, and similes, this title will be a welcome addition to any elementary school teacher's language arts block…It also lends itself to a discussion of diversity and tolerance. Recommended"

School Library Connection

"An endearing story about the power of acceptance."

Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch, award-winning author of <i>Making Bombs for Hitler</i>

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