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
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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
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