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The Circlemaker Hardcover – February 1, 1994


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Mendel is only 12 when the czar's soldiers come to his shtetl with an order to conscript all Jewish boys for 25 years of service in the army. As his classmates are plucked off the streets or flee with their families, Mendel resolves on his own to run away, hoping to breach the dangerous Green Border into Hungary and from there find a way to America. He cuts off his earlocks but pledges to preserve his ties to Judaism and his father's teachings even as he plunges into the unknown. More atmospheric and suspenseful than Carol Matas's Sworn Enemies , which also examines the czarist conscription of Jewish children, Schur's novel suggests both the warmth and the narrowness of the shtetl (" 'Not Dovid . . . not Chaim . . . ' Reb Svinsky was taking the roll and at the same time fooling the Evil Eye. What bad spirit could do harm to children who were not there?"), and the vastness of the world Mendel enters. The author conveys the adventure and daring of Mendel's escape, maintaining an edge-of-the-seat tension until the very last words. Ages 9-12.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From School Library Journal

Grade 5-7-Mendel is 12 in 1852 when Czar Nicholas's soldiers come through his small Ukrainian town looking for Jewish conscripts. Knowing that his parents will risk their lives to protect him, he runs away. He is helped by a mysterious freedom fighter who pairs him with another fugitive-Dovid, the town bully. Their dangerous trip to the Hungarian border teaches Mendel what his devout father meant when he said "only the closed circle can keep us whole." The final chapter sees him on his way to a new life in New York, and the ending is open enough to allow for a sequel. The pacing of the text is excellent-there is sufficient time between periods of action to allow readers to assimilate the gravity of the boys' situation, and sufficient tension to hold interest. The setting is well realized, as is the danger. Characterization, however, is weak. Mendel's feelings on leaving his parents are described but do not seem truly felt, and though indications are given as to why Dovid is such an inhuman thug, he remains a two-dimensional figure. More depth is achieved in Karen Hesse's Letters from Rifka (Holt, 1992). However, this adventure story serves well to re-create its historical period.
Ann Welton, Terminal Park Elementary School, Auburn, WA
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 10 and up
  • Hardcover: 179 pages
  • Publisher: Dial; 1st edition (February 1, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0803713541
  • ISBN-13: 978-0803713543
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 0.9 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #6,538,347 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Carl Berg on November 25, 2003
Format: Paperback
The Circlemaker, 11/25/03
Reviewer: Carl Berg
I used the Circlemaker by Maxine Rose Schur with my fifth grade students. Ms Schur's story of a young Jewish boy fighting conscription into the Czar's army in 1852 was one that captured my students' fascination and motivation. It was one of the few books where I had the children begging to read ahead. Ms Schur's character development is superb and the sub plot that exists is one that my students were able to learn a great lesson from. Throughout the story, the main character, Mendel, is confronted with having to build a relationship with his arch enemy, Dovid, who happens to also be running away from the Czar's conscriptors. Dovid, a bully, and master of evil, treats Mendel with disdain. Dovid finds himself in a life threatening predicament towards the end of the story and Mendel's ultimate reaction to the situation helps the reader to learn that a circle in life needs to be closed in order to be at peace with oneself. I truly recommend The Circlemaker to young and old.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 12, 2001
Format: School & Library Binding
This is a wonderful book about a little known period when children were conscripted into the army. The hero is an adolescent boy with the courage to change his destiny. It's an adventure story that keeps you glued from beginning to end. But unlike many adventure stories, there is a core of profound emotional truths that belie the genre. Obviously,the research that went into this book was exhaustive. And the power of the author to evoke the period is only one of the ways in which she excels as a writer. As a writer of historical fiction for young people she has few peers.
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Format: Paperback
EXCELLENT read! I stumbled across this book in our library's book sale and what a treasure it is!!! Excited to read it to my child's class at school! The Circlemaker is real page-turner with insight into Jewish culture and history... with a good and universal moral overtone. This book immediately captured and held the fancy of my elementary school children! I recommend this book for readers of all ages - a wonderful read-aloud to share with the whole family! (I am even recommending it for school reading lists!)
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By M. Stade on August 18, 2013
Format: Paperback
My interest in this book is founded in my desire to hand my kids books from other cultures that have influenced our own culture for their reading adventures. I was not aware of the history that this book is founded in. I am not Jewish. I am not male. Many anticipated learning potentials between the covers of the book!

The book that I read was published by Penquin Books USA Inc., Dial Books for Young Readers. My beef with publishers and writers of "books for young readers" is their insistence of including foul language in their stories. Perhaps the people that make the decisions (publishers, editors, authors) use this sort of offensive language themselves and think that everyone else does too. There are other words that could have been used to make the point. They are not important to the story. Why signal approval of the use of profane language by handing a books to my kids to read that uses it in the story? Yes, I could blacken out the swearing. Yes, I could read the book out loud to my kid, skipping the offensive language.

My observation to Penquin Books USA, Dial Books for Young Readers is that many people still refrain from using profanity. Many people would like to trust your publishing house. Would you please edit your books aimed at young people more carefully?
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1 of 3 people found the following review helpful By "xanderslayer1" on January 14, 2001
Format: Paperback
Although I wasn't a huge fan of the book, it did give a good insight into the Russian world. Mendel's courage and dedication should be looked up to. This book tells the story of Mendel, a Russian boy, trying to get away from being forced into the army. It shows many ups and downs but tends to get boring. It does have some good moments but for the most part this is not the best book I've ever read.
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