From School Library Journal
Grade 3-5–This delightful story is based on a true incident reported in the St. Louis Jewish Record in 1919, in which Reb Elias Olschwanger's liquor store was almost robbed of its Passover wine (brought in special from the Land of Israel no less) by a couple of inept thieves. But that's not the whole story because Reb Elias also recounts his own version of the exodus from Egypt, with the Hebrews absconding with linen and jewels and raisins–raisins? Anyway, you remember the part where Pharaoh chases after the Israelites and ends up in the Red Sea? Turns out his ghost is still wandering around St. Louis of all places, whispering in the ears of the crooks to go rob the store, only they get scared off by some noisy neighbors and a talking horse. This tale is a pleasure and a hoot; it rings so true with the voice of a Yiddishe grandmother that it's practically historical fiction (minus the ghost). The boldly colored, expressive illustrations enhance the humor so you shouldn't get bored.– Teri Markson, Stephen S. Wise Temple Elementary School, Los Angeles
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Gr. 2-4. Shtetl humor and magic realism come to St. Louis in 1919 in this wry Pesach story based on the experience of the author's great-grandfather, who sold kosher wines. While Reb Elias is at synagogue leading a Talmud discussion (OK, an argument) about the first Passover (when the Israelites were booted out of Egypt), Pharaoh's ghost arrives in St. Louis, still sneaking around and trying to put one over on the Jews. He persuades a couple of crooks ("onions should grow in their navels") to steal Reb Elias' special Passover wine, but with help from the prophet Elijah and a talking horse, the bumbling thieves are chased away by noisy neighbors. The boldly colored woodcuts give life to the city neighborhood, the foolish villains, and the lively arguments as well as to the daring Israelites, escaping across the desert 3000 years ago. The best thing here, however, is Olswanger's Yiddish storyteller's voice, particularly the hilarious curses she weaves into the story: "His teeth should fall out, except one, then he could have a toothache." Great for reading aloud. Hazel Rochman
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