Part of the Bay Area Book Festival, this event features Evan Wolkenstein, author of Turtle Boy, a middle grade novel about coming out of one’s shell into the light.

Adolescence is a time when young people find themselves suddenly and uncomfortably aware of how others are looking at them. Mentors, teachers, and role models play a critical role in navigating this challenging transition, helping kids identify spaces where they can be confident being themselves.

Join JCHS faculty member Evan Wolkenstein, author of the award-winning novel Turtle Boy, for a lively discussion about how books and theater, particularly when infused with Jewish themes, can profoundly influence tweens and teens on their paths to young adulthood. Featured speakers include JCHS 11th graders Bennett Taubman and Arianna Zilberleyb, and Brandeis librarian Bel Beeson. Aimed at tweens, teens and parents.

Co-hosted by the Jewish Community High School of the Bay and The Brandeis School of San Francisco.


Winner of Sydney Taylor Book Award, 2021

​Seventh grade is not going well for Will Levine. Kids at school bully him because of his funny-looking chin. His science teacher, Ms. Kuper, finds out about the turtles he spent his summer collecting from the marsh behind school and orders him to release them back into the wild. And for his Bar Mitzvah community service project, he has to go to the hospital to visit RJ, an older boy struggling with an incurable disease. Unfortunately, Will hates hospitals.

At first, the boys don’t get along, but then RJ shares his bucket list with Will. Among the things he wants to do: ride a roller coaster, go to a concert and a school dance, swim in the ocean. To Will, happiness is hanging out in his room, alone, preferably with his turtles. But as RJ’s disease worsens, Will realizes he needs to tackle the bucket list on his new friend’s behalf before it’s too late. It seems like an impossible mission, way outside Will’s comfort zone. But as he completes each task with RJ’s guidance, Will learns that life is too short to live in a shell.