Blog Tour: The Diary of Asser Levy: First Jewish Citizen of New York by Daniela Weil

First Jewish Citizen
of New York

Genre: Historical Fiction / Middle Grade / Jewish / Colonial America
Publisher: Pelican (Arcadia Publishing)
Date of Publication: March 9, 2020
Number of Pages: 128

  Scroll down for the giveaway!

For twenty-four years the Dutch colony of Pernambuco in northeastern Brazil was a safe haven for Jews who had escaped the Inquisition in Europe. Recife, its capital, was known as “Colonial Jerusalem,” and it was from this religiously tolerant town that Asser Levy tells his story. When the Portuguese recaptured the territory in 1654, they brought the Inquisition and its torments with them, forcing Asser and his family and friends to flee to Holland. About fifteen ships arrive safely in Holland; Asser’s ship does not. 

Through imagined diary entries based on real events, Asser tells the harrowing story of the Jewish refugees who arrived on the island of Manhattan and of some of the first court battles fought to allow religious freedom in America.

“The book breathes life into a little-known yet important Jewish figure of early New Amsterdam and New York. Through a series of diary entries based on fact and the author’s creation, the author brings out the emotion, drama, and conflicts of Asser Levy’s turbulent journey to a new land in search of religious freedom. … The book will add color to classroom lessons on early US history and on Jewish immigration.” —Paul Kaplan, author of Jewish New York: A History and Guide to Neighborhoods, Synagogues, and Eateries 

“What an extraordinary amount of research went into it! And what a creative way of combining historical fiction and contemporary pictures. Kudos!” —Cynthia Levinson, author of The Youngest Marcher

“What a fine job [Daniela] did with this story! … The diary-style keeps the pace moving, and the adventures make it exciting. Lots of setting details bring the scenes alive, and the dialogue engages the reader in the plot. I can see how it will be easy for a young reader to identify with Asser, worrying about how (and if) he’ll succeed in his quest.” —Gail Jarrow, author of Fatal Fever


So much to say about The Diary of Asser Levy!  This is an interesting, innovative, and fascinating look at a subject that history has often overlooked.  A personal story for the author, Asser Levy was one of the first Jewish inhabitants of America!  Author Daniela Weil has taken in depth analysis of historical events and filled in the blanks from the historical record to reach younger audiences.  Ultimately, this is a story of survival, diplomacy, and bravery!

I absolutely enjoyed reading the diary portion of this book, which takes up most of the text.  Asser Levy’s journey from Brazil to Jamaica to the New World took him through real-world dangers on the high seas, religious persecution, skilled deal-making, and eventually a long-term home.  Given the state of the historical record, the author filled in parts of Asser’s personality with an adept hand. 

Included in the later part of the book are maps, photographs, background information, and other intriguing details.  As a historian, I very much appreciated the inclusion of historical documents and background information.  Asser’s voice is fascinating and I am so glad that it is being heard today! 

Another amazing thing about this book is the typeface!  The typeface is OpenDyslexic which is a font designed for inclusion for readers of all abilities.  My son is a much more fluent reader when books have this font!  A fantastic choice to bring Asser’s story to more readers!  This is a perfect book for teachers, parents, and  people interested in Jewish heritage! 

Thank you to Daniela Weil, Pelican Publishing, and the folks at Lone Star Book Blog Tours for having me along! 

Daniela Weil was born in Brazil. She attended the International School in São Paulo, where she was surrounded by people and cultures from around the world. It was also there that she developed a passion for nature, art, and writing. After earning a BA in biology from Brandeis University in Boston, Weil became a field research biologist. She participated in various whale projects, including illustrating the first field guide for whales and dolphins in Brazil.

Being a mother rekindled her desire to share her passion about the natural world. She joined the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) and attended workshops on writing nonfiction and science for kids. After writing several articles on science and history, she ventured into books. Weil attended the Texas Library Association annual conference with her SCBWI group and met the folks from Pelican, who were intrigued by her middle-grade book idea. As the project developed, her research took her back to Brazil and across the world, chasing Asser’s experiences.

When not on the hunt for new experiences, Weil makes her home in Austin, Texas, with her husband, Erik, and daughter, Lucy.

ONE WINNER gets a signed hardcover copy of the book.
 September 22-October 2, 2020
(U.S. Only)
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Or, visit the blogs directly:


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Chapter Break Book Blog



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Scrapbook Page

The Adventures of a Travelers Wife



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