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Even Higher! A Rosh Hashanah Story Hardcover – September 1, 2009


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Product Details

  • Age Range: 5 and up
  • Grade Level: Kindergarten and up
  • Lexile Measure: 670L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 24 pages
  • Publisher: Holiday House (September 1, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0823420205
  • ISBN-13: 978-0823420209
  • Product Dimensions: 10 x 8.1 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,130,610 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 2–5—Each year, the revered rabbi of an Eastern European village disappears for a few days before the Jewish New Year. The townsfolk speculate that he spends the time in heaven, personally asking God to forgive the villagers' sins. When a skeptical stranger follows the rabbi, he finds him performing a deed whose worth is "even higher": the rabbi chops wood to provide for a poor, elderly, sickly woman. Kimmel's adaptation is fairly traditional, but he has added a few elements that seem a bit at odds with the story, including a Ukrainian drinking song and a miraculous cure. The story is rooted firmly in the shtetl setting and is best appreciated by readers with some prior knowledge of this culture. Despite the cheerful cartoon illustrations, this is not the most child-friendly retelling. For a version more appealing to children, try Richard Ungar's Even Higher (Tundra, 2007), which features a curious boy instead of a doubting adult.—Heidi Estrin, Feldman Children's Library at Congregation B'nai Israel, Boca Raton, FL END

From Booklist

Like Richard Ungar’s 2007 picture book with the same title, this retelling of Peretz's beautiful Jewish folktale is about a rabbi whom the shtetl people believe performs a miracle every year before Rosh Hashanah. Kimmel tells it from the viewpoint of a skeptical Litvak stranger, who does not believe in miracles. He follows the rabbi, who disguises himself as a peasant, cuts wood, and brings his bundle to a poor old woman in a wretched shack, then sings and dances with her before the fire she builds. The bright mixed-media pictures in folk-art style show the rabbi’s hard work and joyful movements, a powerful, earthy contrast to the magic realism that the shtetl people imagine. Steeped in Yiddish idiom, the story sends an unforgettable message: the skeptic changes and sees that ordinary kindness is enough to save the world. In the end, when the local people proclaim that the holy man flew up to heaven, the Litvak stranger nods and adds in a quiet voice: “Who knows? / Maybe even higher!” Preschool-Grade 3. --Hazel Rochman

More About the Author

Eric A. Kimmel is a native New Yorker who lives in Oregon. He was born in Brooklyn, NY where he learned to love books and traditional stories from an early age. He could hear five different languages without leaving his block. Eric taught teachers as a professor of Education at Indiana University at South Bend and Portland State University. His favorite classes were children's literature, language arts, storytelling, and handwriting. He left the university in 1993 to become a full-time writer, a dream he had had since kindergarten.

Eric's books have won numerous awards. He and his wife Doris have traveled all over the world, sharing his books and stories with school children in China, Africa, and Turkey.

Customer Reviews

Beautiful, sweet story!
Canary
This book, based on the traditional High Holidays story about the truly amazing Rabbi of Nemirov, is perfectly illustrated for youngsters.
HTK
In the original Yiddish short story by I.L. Peretz, the rabbi of Nemirov disappears on the days preceding the holy days of Rosh Hashanah.
Jewish Book World Magazine

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Jewish Book World Magazine on April 13, 2010
Format: Hardcover
In the original Yiddish short story by I.L. Peretz, the rabbi of Nemirov disappears on the days preceding the holy days of Rosh Hashanah. The Ukrainian villagers believe he has gone to speak to God on their behalf. A doubting Litvak, sceptical as men from Lithuania have a reputation for being, questions the truth of their belief. Kimmel opens his picture book adaptation with the core question, "Where did the rabbi go?" The Litvak determines to find out. Playful, gouache illustrations, chock full of cats, chickens, mice, and a nibbling goat, follow the human rabbi and spying Litvak as the Litvak hides under the rabbi's bed and sneaks behind when the rabbi, disguised as a peasant, chops wood in the forest and then lights the fire for a sick woman in the poorest section of the village. An endnote tells that the next scene was inspired by Kimmel's own grandmother at age 95 - The rabbi sings a Ukrainian drinking song and pulls the old woman up to dance - before returning to the traditional tale. Afterwards, the Litvak, now a disciple, asserts that the rabbi of Nemirov has gone even higher than heaven. Aside from a curious three pages which slow the story down to over-explain how the Litvak is a doubter, this is the most child-friendly version of Peretz's classic story now in print. Light, upbeat art with figures like paper doll cut-outs and clear black font help connect this accessible tale of truly unselfish giving for readers ages 6-9. Sharon Elswit
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Larry Mark MyJewishBooksDotCom on September 15, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Prolific children's author, Kimmel, scores another winner with this story that is based on a story by I. L. Peretz (1852-1915), titled "Oyb Nit Nogh Hekher", or "If Not Higher." In the original story, the miracle is that there are no miracles. You can save the world simply by being kind to others. In Kimmel's retelling of the story, we find ourselves in the colorful, simple country village of Nemirov. No one could find the rabbi, not among the hens, the homes, the pushcarts, or the shul before Rosh Hashanah. The villagers are convinced that their rabbi goes to heaven. It is Rosh Hashanh when God open the Book of Life. Obviously, the rabbi goes to heaven to plead the case of forgiveness for the villagers before God. Well, it so happens that a Litvak came to town. A religious man, of course, but a skeptic, since he was a Litvak. (note: Litvaks are from Lithuania. Nemirov is in the Ukraine today, and was the birthplace of Reb Noson the disciple of Nahman and Bratslav, and at one time, part of the Austro Hungarian empire, but i digress) He will prove the villagers wrong. He will follow the rabbi in secret and see where he disappears to. He follows the rabbi. The rabbi dresses as a peasant and heads to the forest. He cuts a load of wood and heads to the village to give it to an old, sickly woman. He poses as Vasilly the wood cutter. He gets this sickly woman to live life. Ah ha... the Litvak realized, the rabbi did go to heaven,... or maybe even higher
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Kathy B. on September 18, 2009
Format: Hardcover
How wonderful to have this extraordinary story back in print and adapted by the master storyteller, Eric Kimmel. As always, we find ourselves in a shtetl full of loyal followers believing their rabbi visits heaven prior to the High Holidays, there is a skeptic who must follow the rabbi to prove them wrong and a righteous rabbi who is going somewhere "Even Higher." The twist? The old woman who the rabbi visits actually gets out of bed and dances with the rabbi in this clever retelling that adds a Ukrainian drinking song with the line, "Life is well worth living" to the story. Leave it to Mr. Kimmel to improve on I. L. Peretz.

The illustrations are a bit ordinary for my taste, but how far can you stretch the look of shtetl life? This is a great story for reading aloud at the High Holidays.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By HTK on November 2, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book, based on the traditional High Holidays story about the truly amazing Rabbi of Nemirov, is perfectly illustrated for youngsters. In addition, it has a most unusual twist from the classic Peretz version that is both "upbeat" and innovative--a cheerful semi-climax to a wonderful story. I believe this telling of the story with all the colorful and captivating illustrations will prove of value in sharing the theme of "righteousness" with children of all ages. It's great for parents and grandparents to read to the youngsters all through the year, not just before or during the High Holidays season.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By grasshopper on May 10, 2013
Format: School & Library Binding Verified Purchase
I loved this story as a child and bought this book for my nephews...but this is such a weird version. It ends with the rebbi dancing with the old lady in her house but am definitely not giving it as a gift.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Bibliophilic on October 23, 2011
Format: Paperback
Before I review this book, I just want to say that I generally love Eric Kimmel. I just don't think that this is him at his best.

In _Even Higher_, Kimmel's adaptation of I.L. Peretz's classic tale, a Litvak follows the Rabbi of Nemerov on his mysterious excursion prior to Rosh HaShanah. I won't summarize the book further, as the other reviews do a good job of that.

What I liked: The simple, folksy illustrations are quite pleasant and engaging. The way the text dances around the page shows excellence in art direction. I enjoyed the insertion of the historically appropriate drinking tune and the change in palette when the fire gets going in the old woman's cottage.

What I didn't like: The absolutely terrible and inaccurate description of a Litvak. #1 - A Litvak is a Lithuanian (esp. a Russian-speaking one). #2 - A Litvak isn't a scoffer. A scoffer scoffs at everything, including G-d. A Litvak is a misnaged, someone who specifically scoffs at chassidim and their rebbes. He doubts their "miracles." Kimmel brings attention to the Litvak, but he never points out that the Rabbi of Nemerov isn't simply a rabbi, but a REBBE. These are not the same things.

I understand that Mr. Kimmel wanted to give a little context to the story. The problem is that his mishandling of the chassidus vs. misnaged battles of the 18th and 19th centuries makes the subject more murky, not less, and is probably not age-appropriate anyway.

I also think that the dancing is simply ridiculous. As another reviewer mentioned, if the old woman is so weak, how can she suddenly start dancing? It's a little over-the-top. Also, it is highly unlikely a Chassidishe rebbe would dance with a woman.

There's a lot to like in this little picture book. There's also some problems with it. You might want to look at it carefully before deciding whether it's appropriate for your kids.
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