Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels
- Age: 9 to 12
- Grade: 4 to 7
- Reading age: 9 to 12
With the help of her Catholic friend, an eleven-year-old Jewish girl creates a provocative local tourist attraction to save her family’s failing motel.
Buying and moving into the run-down Jewel Motor Inn in upstate New York wasn’t eleven-year-old Miriam Brockman’s dream, but at least it’s an adventure. Miriam befriends Kate, whose grandmother owns the diner next door, and finds comfort in the company of Maria, the motel’s housekeeper, and her Uncle Mordy, who comes to help out for the summer. She spends her free time helping Kate’s grandmother make her famous grape pies and begins to face her fears by taking swimming lessons in the motel’s pool.
But when it becomes clear that only a miracle is going to save the Jewel from bankruptcy, Jewish Miriam and Catholic Kate decide to create their own. Otherwise, the No Vacancy sign will come down for good, and Miriam will lose the life she’s worked so hard to build.
Correlates to the Common Core State Standards in English Language Arts:
Compare and contrast the point of view from which different stories are narrated, including the difference between first- and third-person narrations.
Compare and contrast two or more characters, settings, or events in a story or drama, drawing on specific details in the text (e.g., how characters interact).
Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative language such as metaphors and similes.
Describe how a narrator's or speaker's point of view influences how events are described.
Describe how a particular story's or drama's plot unfolds in a series of episodes as well as how the characters respond or change as the plot moves toward a resolution.
Explain how an author develops the point of view of the narrator or speaker in a text.
About the author
Tziporah (Tzippy) Cohen was born and raised in New York and spent eighteen years in Boston before landing in Canada, where she now lives with her husband, three kids, two cats and one dog.
Tzippy studied French and theater arts at Cornell University, where she was one of a handful of chimesmasters who performed concerts in the campus bell tower. Many years after graduating from Harvard Medical School, she received an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts. She now splits her time between writing and working as an oncology/palliative care psychiatrist. Follow her on Twitter @tzippymfa.
- Commended, Sydney Taylor Book Award — Honor
- Short-listed, Jean Little First-Novel Award
- Short-listed, Hackmatack Children’s Choice Book Award — English Fiction
- Commended, A Bank Street College of Education Best Children’s Book of the Year
- Commended, National Jewish Book Award Finalist — Middle Grade Literature
Excerpt: No Vacancy (by (author) Tziporah Cohen)
I watch the Shabbat candles flicker on the counter. At home, this is my favorite time of the week. But here, the candles feel like two eyes watching me, like they can tell what I did.
Kate told me about confession. She says some Catholics go every week, but her family goes once a year, around Easter. You go into a special room, like a closet, which is separated from another little room where Father Donovan sits, so they can hear each other but not see each other. It’s supposed to be private and you don’t have to say your name, but Kate says it’s a little town and for sure he recognizes her voice.
I explained to her about Yom Kippur, when Jews fast and pray in synagogue all day, thinking about the bad things they did the past year and what they need to do to be a better person. We’re supposed to ask forgiveness from the person we hurt. We don’t confess to the rabbi, though.
I asked Kate if faking a Virgin Mary apparition is a sin you’d have to confess at confession.
“Yep,” she said. “But luckily, Easter is nine months away.”
[A] simple story filled with memorable and sympathetic characters
Canadian Children’s Book News
Debut author Cohen displays a knack for storytelling that makes this a thoughtful, engrossing, funny read.
It’s wonderful when a book about miracles turns out to be one. And the miracle in No Vacancy above everything else is kindness.
Tim Wynne-Jones, award-winning author
This summer-in-a-small-town novel, with a mischief-based premise and an old-fashioned feel, includes plenty of exploration of how Miriam and her family fit into the larger community.
A leisurely paced, character-rich tale of family, religious faith, and the human need for the miraculous. Strongly recommended for middle grade collections.
School Library Journal
Miriam is a delight, both sarcastic and complex. … sensitive plot layers portray differences between types of Judaism, showing how people of different faiths, languages, ages, and backgrounds can have respectful and close relationships.
With effortless mastery, Cohen weaves the opposing forces of innocence and corruption, right and wrong, love and hate. STARRED REVIEW
Quill & Quire
Filled with thoughtful, masterful writing, No Vacancy offers readers a wonderful cast of characters, a chance to consider what is right or wrong, to look at differences with tender care and concern, and to look at racism as it exists in society.
Sal's Fiction Addiction Blog
Miriam is an intelligent pre-teen with lots of worthy questions [and] the prose is easy to read.
Association of Jewish Libraries
It’s the connections between the characters that really made this story come alive.
CM Review of Materials