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Gershon's Monster: A Story for the Jewish New Year Hardcover – September 1, 2000


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Gershon's Monster: A Story for the Jewish New Year + The Hardest Word: A Yom Kippur Story + Talia and the Rude Vegetables (High Holidays)
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 4 - 8 years
  • Grade Level: Preschool - 3
  • Lexile Measure: 400L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 32 pages
  • Publisher: Scholastic Press; 1st edition (September 1, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 043910839X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0439108393
  • Product Dimensions: 11.6 x 9.3 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #49,967 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Rather than regret or atone for his everyday mistakes, baker Gershon simply sweeps them into his basement. Once a year on Rosh Hashanah, he stuffs these demon-shaped transgressions in a giant bag and dumps them into the Black Sea. Of course, Gershon must discover sooner or later that his selfish acts cannot be disposed of so easily. In spite of a pointed warning from a rabbi, Gershon refuses to realize that his behavior will come back to haunt him someday. It's only when he is faced with the monstrous bulk of his misdeeds that Gershon finally, truly repents.

Eric A. Kimmel's beautiful retelling of the traditional Hasidic legend for the Jewish New Year captures all the weighty value of responsibility and forgiveness. In his author's note, Kimmel describes the Rosh Hashanah ceremony called tashlikh, in which people gather at the seashore or by a river to recite biblical verses and turn their pockets inside out, allowing bread crumbs to fall into the water--a symbolic casting-off of sins.

Award-winning illustrator Jon J Muth's expressive and luminous watercolors, suffused with the pale golden light of day or oppressed under a lowering coastal sky, are unforgettable, as is the remarkably frightening yet stunning "immense black monster covered with scales like iron plates," on each of which is written one of Gershon's misdeeds. Muth's extraordinary work can also be seen in author Karen Hesse's lovely picture book Come On, Rain! (Ages 5 to 9) --Emilie Coulter

From Publishers Weekly

This presentation of a Hasidic legend has everything a reader could want: a suspenseful story, an insightful lesson and brilliant pictures that accelerate the delivery of both. Central to the plot is the custom of tashlikh, the ritual casting of sins into the water on the first day of Rosh Hashanah. Gershon the baker, "not always the best person he could be," begins to rely on this practice as a way of dealing with his mistakes: instead of apologizing and making amends, he sweeps his thoughtless deeds into the cellar every Friday and, on Rosh Hashanah, he stuffs them into a sack, drags it to the sea and tosses it in. Of course, he will learn true repentance - but not before he receives a cryptic prophecy from a sage and, much later, faces down the sea monster his sins have created. Relegating words like tashlikh to a meaty author's note (which also describes Jewish principles of t'shuvah, or repentance), Kimmel (Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins) uses everyday language, letting the moral shine through his astute storytelling. The airy watercolor illustrations, loaded with period detail, transcend the particularities of the setting by virtue of Muth's (Come On, Rain!) expansive imaginative vision. He enhances the comedy in the premise by painting the sins as tiny horned imps who jeer as they face Gershon's broom (they grow a bit nastier as the story advances), yet he leaves room for a humane depiction of Gershon, more self-absorbed than wicked, and for a psychologically canny and dramatic portrayal of the monster. A memorable work, welcome at any time of year. Ages 5-up. (Sept.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
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My two children ( 3 and 7) really enjoy the story over and over.
MrPringles
Eric Kimmel, a prolific Jewish children's book author, presents this book for the High Holidays based on a Hasidic tale about tashlikh and repentance.
Larry Mark MyJewishBooksDotCom
As wonderful as this story is, I truly think it is inappropriate for the little ones.
Shrink wrapped

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

38 of 38 people found the following review helpful By Larry Mark MyJewishBooksDotCom on September 9, 2000
Format: Hardcover
For adults as well as Ages 4-8. Every Rosh Hashana, in Jewish communities around the Earth, some Jews symbolically dispose of their sins by emptying their pockets of bread crumbs into streams, rivers, or seas. Some do this symbolically, others with meaning, but a few forget Isaiah's admonition against choosing an improper Fast. The process is known as tashlikh. Eric Kimmel, a prolific Jewish children's book author, presents this book for the High Holidays based on a Hasidic tale about tashlikh and repentance. The book is based on a Hasidic tale attriuted to the Ba'al Shem Tov (BeSHT). It also incorporates the writings of Rabbi Maimonide's 12th Century "Laws of Repentance (Chapter 2)", and Rabbi Benay Lappe's 20th Century "Six Steps for Doing Teshuva." The back page includes the steps needed for real repentance. Now let's get to the book and its sublime watercolor pictures. Gershon the Baker and his noble wife Fayge live in Constantsa on the Black Sea. Is (Constant)sa a town where change does not occur? Gershon the Baker is uncaring and self-absorbed; he sweeps his flaws into his cellar each Friday, but never makes amends or apologizes. Gershon cares nothing about other people's feelings. He never apologizes; he barges into rooms; he knocks things over; he never says, "Thank You." At Rosh Hashana, he places all his sins and flaws, that hang on you like fringes with faces, from the cellar into a sack and take them down to the Black Sea. There in the Sea, he deposits them and forgets them. But do sins just disappear if true repentance is missing? When Gershon travels to Kuty to see a famed rabbi in order to plead for a child, he is oblivious to the rabbi's admonishments that Gershon is undeserving and uncaring.Read more ›
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Alyssa A. Lappen TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 13, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Eric Kimmel takes great pains with all his stories, and this was no exception. As explained in his afterward, he derived this superb tale of T'Shuva (repentance, or to be more precise, returning to a righteous path) from an early Hasidic legend of the Rabbi Israel ben Eliezer, who lived in Poland from 1700 to 1760 and was known as the Ba'al Shem Tov, or Master of the Good Name.

Kimmel's ancestors came from that region, and he believes they knew him. Given his gift with story telling --- an art for which the Ba'al Shem Tov was also famous --- I can believe it. Not content, however, Kimmel also consulted work of the great 12th century Sephardic Rabbi, Moses Maimonides, known as the Ramban.

Hershel sins every day many times, but he counts himself lucky each week to be able to sweep his ill deeds aside. At the end of the year, on Rosh Hashonah, he gathers them in a giant bag, takes them to the sea and tosses them in. Kimmel derives this colorful part of Gershon's annual routine from the Jewish tradition of Tashlikh, when people walk to lakes, rivers or any moving water to toss away their crumbs. This prayerful "casting off of sins," concerns repentance and forgiveness.

But Hershel does not take the exercise seriously. He drags his satchel of sins to the sea, and then returns to his old ways --- insulting people, forgetting to say Thank You, telling little untruths here and there. He even forgets to thank the Tzaddik, the holy man, whose prayers make it possible for his childless wife Fayge to bear twins. The Tzaddik warns him, though, that his bad habits will cause problems in a few short years.

Sure enough, they do. Hershel's wife has beautiful twins, but all nearly comes to ruin. To discover how Hershel finds the path to T'Shuva and saves his family, indulge in this book brilliantly illustrated by Jon Muth. You and your children will treasure it.

--- Alyssa A. Lappen
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By J. Cohen on September 29, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I bought this to read to my 7-year-old for the High Holidays. She loves it and I know we'll be reading it all year. We love all of Eric Kimmel's books. You can't lose with him.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Marc Ruby™ HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on September 2, 2001
Format: Hardcover
While looking for something else entirely, my eye fell on this short illustrated retelling of a Hasidic legend, and in very short order I was totally entranced. The story, a cautionary tale relative to the nature of sin and redemption is ostensibly for children. But, in these times, it has as much meaning for the adult reading it to the child as it does for the child who is listening.
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Gershon is a baker. He lives a small, ungenerous life, never committing a 'big' sin but often doing the little wrong things that can leave a bitter taste behind. He orders rather than asks, forgets to thank people and never feels regret for his actions. Instead he stores his errors in the basement and then, at Rosh Hashanah, he follows the old tashlikh ceremony and empties his sins into the ocean as if they were bread crumbs.
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One day Gershon and his wife, who are childless, decide to consult a wise man, a tzaddik, to see if they might have children. The tzaddik, modeled after Rabbi Israel ben Elieser (the nearly legendary Baal Shem Tov), warns Gershon off, telling him that all the sins he has fouled the ocean with will come back to haunt him if he has children. Gershon is not to be put off though, and the Rabbi relents. He provides a cantrip and Gershon and his wife soon have twins.
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When the children are five, the Tzaddik's warning starts to come to pass, and Gershon sees the monster he has created rise from the ocean and threaten his children. For the fist time in his life Gershon truly repents and, as the monster fades away Gershon clasps his children and finally understands what he must do.
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