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The Angel's Mistake: Stories of Chelm Hardcover – April, 1997


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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Grade 1-3?Anecdotal episodes of life in the fabled village of Chelm are told in one and two sentence paragraphs using modern language that retains no Yiddish flavoring or inflection. What was a barrel of borsht in Solomon Simon's The Wise Men of Helm (Behrman, 1942) becomes a water barrel. The humorous ponderings and discussions of the village elders, so elemental to Eastern European Jewish life and so much a part of Isaac Bashevis Singer's stories, are nowhere in evidence. In fact, one is barely aware that these are Jewish stories beyond the author's note and the mention of the Grand Rabbi. The origin of the town is the connecting thread between the title and the beginning and end of the story, but by simplifying the tales to reach a picture-book audience, the details and descriptions of daily life are lost. There is a subtle difference between calling Chelmites fools and calling them stupid. Fools, as depicted by Simon and Singer, just can't seem to make a sensible decision even though their hearts are in the right place while stupid, as used so often in this book, connotes a lack of intelligence. The gouache paintings are colorful but too indistinct to establish a proper sense of place.?Susan Pine, New York Public Library
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

Ages 4^-9. From Sholom Aleichem's shtetl stories to Isaac Bashevis Singer's When Shlemiel Went to Warsaw (1968), Yiddish folklore has provided rich stories of the earnest, endearing fools of the town of Chelm. Now Prose gives a kind of overview story of how Chelm came to be a foolish center (two angels messed up) and how it was finally destroyed, scattering its foolish inhabitants everywhere. In between, she tells several anecdotes of silliness in daily life: "Of course, the people of Chelm were too stupid to know they were stupid . . . they had an answer for everything." When it rained, they wore their hats upside down to keep them dry. When the man who woke them for morning prayers got too old to go from house to house, they took their doors off their hinges and brought them to him so he could knock on their doors without leaving home. Like the storytelling, Podwal's gouache and colored-pencil illustrations are deadpan, wild, solemn, and absurd. Small children--and those who read to them--will laugh out loud. Hazel Rochman
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 6 and up
  • Hardcover: 24 pages
  • Publisher: Greenwillow; 1st edition (April 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0688149057
  • ISBN-13: 978-0688149055
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 9 x 11.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,225,837 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Francine Prose is the author of sixteen books of fiction. Her novel A Changed Man won the Dayton Literary Peace Prize, and Blue Angel was a finalist for the National Book Award. Her most recent works of nonfiction include the highly acclaimed Anne Frank: The Book, The Life, The Afterlife, and the New York Times bestseller Reading Like a Writer. A former president of PEN American Center, and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Francine Prose lives in New York City.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 18, 2000
Format: Hardcover
My daughter (age 8) loves this book. It's one of her favorite read-alouds, and it's easy enough for her to read by herself. It is based on an old Jewish folk tale about a town in Eastern Europe where the people are incredibly stupid. The kids think it's hilarious.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Alyssa A. Lappen VINE VOICE on December 10, 2001
Format: Hardcover
I always thought Chelm stories were for older children and adults but Francine Prose has proven me wrong.

In this 21-page rendition of Chelm, that mythic town in Eastern Europe where all the people were fools, she introduces their most classic foibles.

When the man who woke the people every morning for prayers got too old to walk from house to house, they took their doors off the hinges and carried them to him so he could knock without leaving his yard. The people went barefoot in the snow so their shoes wouldn't get wet. They wore their hats upside down when it rained to keep them dry.

They built their new synogogue without a roof so their prayers could rise to heaven. They tried to move the mountain to remove their town from shadow. They tried to catch the moon and store it in a barrel. And when a fire broke out, they threw on logs to smother it. Needless to say, it burned higher.

This book has none of the character development or pithy dialogue of other Chelm volumes, but Mark Podwal's illustrations more than make up, in pictures, for the hallmark word-play of Chelm.
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Format: Hardcover
The Angel's Mistake is a wonderful well written book full of stories great for reading aloud for an entire family. Please check out Francine Prose and Mark Podwal's other books. Angel's Mistake is so good the Jewish Community Library of Los Angeles selected it to be read by actress Joanna Gleason for the Library public radio production and CD,"One People, Many Stories: Jewish Stories from Around the World."
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Format: Hardcover
My boys LOVE this book and giggle every time we read it. They are 4 and 3 and get most of the jokes.

However, some of the "jokes" seem a bit meanspirited to me althoug the ending of the book makes up for it. So I give it 4 instead of 5 stars.
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