12 BEFORE 13 

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12 before13 book coverWhat the Book is About:

Arianna’s first summer at Jewish sleepaway camp went better than she had hoped; not only does she feel more connected to Judaism, but she made four great friends! Once Arianna gets back home, balancing her camp friends and school friends proves to be more challenging than she expected. Fortunately, the list of 12 goals she and her BFF Kaylan want to achieve by their 13th birthdays is keeping them connected even when things get tense.
While Arianna and her Mom are finalizing plans for her bat mitzvah party, her father loses his job. Just as the stress of trying to adjust to 7th grade, figure out her friendships, achieve her goals, and support her family seems to be more than she can handle, Arianna realizes she has a new source of strength and support to rely on: her Jewish faith and community.

Jewish Content and Values

  • Arianna attends Jewish sleepaway camp, where she connects with other Jewish children, sings Hebrew songs, and strengthens her Jewish identity.
  • Arianna’s family lights candles on Shabbat and attends services on Jewish holidays.
  • Arianna is close to all her grandparents, including her Bubbe and Zayda.
  • Arianna goes to Hebrew school and prepares for her bat mitzvah, which she celebrates at the end of the book by reading from the Torah and making a speech before her family and friends.
  • Arianna meets with the cantor of her temple to practice her bat mitzvah prayers, discuss her Torah portion, and write her d’var Torah (talk on the weekly Torah portion).

Positive Role Models

  • Arianna is a thoughtful girl who works hard to stay calm when her friends and family members are freaking out. She is an honors student who enjoys attending services and values being a good friend, daughter, and granddaughter. Arianna starts a mindfulness club at her middle school, stands up for a fellow student who is consistently overlooked in math class, and works hard to prepare for her bat mitzvah.
  • Arianna’s Bubbe is a supportive and kind grandmother who, along with her husband, moves so they can be closer to Arianna and her family.
  • Cantor Simon is a source of support and advice for Arianna, not only in her bat mitzvah planning, but with many of the challenges she faces in her personal life.
  • Jonah Malkin (aka Golfy) is a sweet boy who encourages Arianna to be honest with her mother when she isn’t sure what to do. He is also polite and friendly to Arianna’s family and friends when he meets them.

Content Advisory

Crushes, budding romances, and first kisses are themes throughout this book. Arianna has her own smartphone, and she communicates with all her friends via texting, FaceTime, and Instagram, which plays a part in creating tensions among the friends.

Talk it Over

When the principal announces that they’re looking for ideas for new clubs, Kaylan proposes a comedy club, and Arianna suggests a mindfulness club. Ultimately, Arianna’s club is chosen, while Kaylan’s isn’t. If you could start a new club at your school, what kind of club would you choose?

More for You

Jewish sleepaway camps rose in popularity just as camping became a common American activity in the late 1800s. Some of the earliest Jewish camps weren’t very Jewish at all; instead, they focused on acculturating immigrant children. Other camps, however, taught Yiddish and encouraged Zionism in hopes of preparing children for life on a kibbutz. In the 1940s and 1950s, Jewish camps became a hub of Jewish education, and several denominational camps affiliated with the Reform, Conservative, and Orthodox movements were started. Recent research has found that individuals who attend a Jewish overnight camp are more likely to maintain their Jewish identities, light Shabbat candles, and attend services later in life. As of 2017, approximately 900,000 Jewish children attended 160 different Jewish summer camps throughout the United States.

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