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Kibitzers and Fools Hardcover – September 8, 2005


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Product Details

  • Age Range: 4 and up
  • Grade Level: Preschool and up
  • Lexile Measure: 690L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 48 pages
  • Publisher: Viking Juvenile (September 8, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670059552
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670059553
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 0.4 x 11.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #308,362 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 3-6–These 13 tales range in humor from slapstick to ridiculous to poignant. Each story includes a Yiddish word or two followed by a simple translation and ends with a saying, e.g., Not every thought is worth expressing; Everyone has his own craziness. The detail-filled cartoon illustrations include an occasional piece of realism–a tidbit of matzo; a snippet of cloth; little faces cut from photographs, with beards, hats, and rosy cheeks painted on; pieces of patterned paper that form a scarf or trim clothing. The stories take place in the small Jewish villages that existed in Eastern Europe during the late-19th- and early-20th centuries. Mixed-media paintings with predominantly gold backgrounds, type that looks hand printed, and a riot of color and pattern on each expertly designed page offer strong visual appeal. A glossary of Yiddish words is included. Some of the humor is a bit sophisticated, especially for those who have no background to which they can relate the stories. Libraries in synagogues and Jewish secular schools will want to purchase this collection, as will public libraries in areas where there is interest in Jewish literature.–Susan Scheps, Shaker Heights Public Library, OH
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

K-Gr. 3. Like Taback's Caldecott-winning book, Joseph Had a Little Overcoat (1999), this uproarious book celebrates the shtetl scene with energetic, mixed-media pictures in bright, folk-art style. But there is nothing sweet and gentle this time. The 13 tales, based on Yiddish tradition, focus on self-important fools; the chief rabbi is no more able to answer the question, "What is life?" than the goats and chickens. Yiddish is a joyful part of the telling (most of the terms are in the appended glossary), and the endpapers are a patchwork of wry sayings from daily life. Some stories end a little abruptly, but most are enjoyable. Best of all is the tale of "two kibitzers (smart alecs, know-it-alls)" who get into a "philosophical dispute" about why, when a slice of buttered bread falls to the floor, it always lands on the buttered side: the farce of the telling; the curses and platitudes; the lively, intricately detailed pictures of the community; and the climax are unforgettable. Families will want to share this. Hazel Rochman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

More About the Author

Simms Taback grew up in the Bronx and graduated from Cooper Union. He has worked as an art director and a graphic designer, and has taught at the School of Visual Arts and Syracause University. He has illustrated many children's books, including I Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly (Viking), Spacy Riddles, Snakey Riddles, Buggy Riddles, and Fishy Riddles (all written by Katy Hall and lIsa Eisenberg, Dial). His work has won many awards, including the Caldecott Honor Award Medal for I Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly and a New York Times Best Illustrated Children's Book. A father of three and grandfather of three, Mr. Taback lives with his wife in Willow, New York copyright ? 2000 by Penguin Putnam Books for Young Readers. All rights reserved.

Customer Reviews

4.9 out of 5 stars
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See all 10 customer reviews
Very well told, and the illustrations are awesome.
Apple Scruff
The stories themselves are masterfully told, and illustrated with a vivid richness that only Simms can conjure up.
Andrew Schonbek
Although this book is considered a childrens book, it reaches all ages.
Marilyn Moses

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Larry Mark MyJewishBooksDotCom on October 2, 2005
Format: Hardcover
With kinetic Jewish drawings and a book design that only Taback can achieve, the author retells 13 stories that were told to him by his zayda. The inside front and back covers are filled with famous Yiddish axioms in primary colors (well, most are Yiddishisms, others might be from Poor Richard's Alamanac). Idioms include From the lowly potato you get the choicest latke; Words are like arrows - both deliver with speedy aim; Words should be weighed and not counted; "Keep you eye on the bagel, and not the hole; and It is easier to be a critic than an author. Each of the 13 stories is followed by axiom. Each story is about 2 pages, maybe 4, but who's counting? One story is about a fish monger, and his neighbors (they all have to put in their two cents cuz they are kibitzers.) Another is about a shnayder, a tailor. Is he a genius, or just bad? One story is about a sick chicken (look closely at the thermometer). Some stories seem like they are from Chelm, one might be from Mel Brooks (hehe); but all have a twist. Of course, there is a well drawn colorful story about the difference between a shlemiel and a shliMazel. In a story about two brothers, God has an important insight into the human condition. In one story we find out when a Labish Noodleman can be a Yankel. My faves: If I Were a Rockefeller; and The Caretaker. The book closes with a glossary of over 45 words, including cheder; meshugge; megilla; klug; Gottenyu; and even gonif.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Marilyn Moses on March 8, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Although this book is considered a childrens book, it reaches all ages. Short stories giving meaning to common Yiddish words through short humorous stories and magnificent illustrations. I gave the book to a 6 year old who loved it; a thirteen year old boy roared with laughter and a 50 year old non-Jewish woman who loved seeing words that she had heard but was not sure of their meanings.What a find! I highly recommend this book.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Telemachus on September 27, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Gottenyu, I haven't seen a Simms Taback book I haven't liked!! This one is excellent. It has the same wonderful syle of illustrations you've come to love in Joseph Had a Little Overcoat (Caldecott Medal Book), There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly (Caldecott Honor Book), and This is the House that Jack Built, but this book is fundamentally different.

Like Joseph, it's set in a shtetl, but it's not one story. It's a collection of very short stories that teach about Jewish culture and also teaches some basic Yiddish words and phrases. The short glossary (52 words) in the back of the book is quite useful too.

The description on Amazon says it's aimed at ages 4 - 8, but I'd say more like ages 6 - 10. I don't think it will hold a preschooler's interest, but is an absolute must have in your child's library. Not to be a kibitzer, but every Bubbe or Zayda should buy this for their grandkids!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Andrew Schonbek on August 9, 2013
Format: Hardcover
This book is an absolute masterpiece.

Award winning author and illustrator Simms Tabak retells thirteen tales from Eastern Europe, originally told him by his grandfather. The venerable Zayda is pictured on the frontispiece where we learn, "He brought these stories to America from his little village in Poland".

The book begins with a series of Yiddish aphorisms, to whet your appetite and get you into the mood. Examples:

* A wise man knows what he says and a fool says what he knows.

* A shlimazel believes only in mazel.

* From the lowly potato you get the choicest latke.

The book ends with a glossary to help make sense of the aphorisms and to understand all that lies between. Some important Yiddish terms that are explained:

* Chutzpah - nerve;

* Meshugge - crazy;

* Zhlub - oaf.

The stories themselves are masterfully told, and illustrated with a vivid richness that only Simms can conjure up. Several made me roar with laughter. It's hard to describe how evocative of Yiddish idiosyncrasies all this is; suffice it to say that the agony and the ecstasy of life in the shtetl comes through loud and clear.

Even when your kids get tired of it, this is a book you'll want to keep for yourself for reading over and over again.
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By Ulyyf on January 13, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Still not Jewish, but I always say a funny story is a funny story. The nieces agreed, and laughed a lot at the morals.

I've actually encountered some of these stories (like the Fresh Fish Sold Here Daily story, or the one about the illiterate) in other, non-Jewish contexts before. Nice to see we all tell the same stories about the same silly people.

In case you miss the Yiddish explanations within each story, there's a glossary at the start of the book.
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