For all those in today's workaday world who wonder just who to curse when their computers go haywire, the milk turns sour, and the traffic lights get fouled up, the answer is plain. The demons! These mischievous imps like nothing better than to spoil people's fun, and will go to great lengths to do so. Take the demons of Chelm, Poland, for example. Bored with messing up the foolish villagers' hair and making livestock fly, the demons decide to take their mischief on the road--to an amazing-sounding place called New York. There, they've heard, the streets are paved with gold, the buildings are made of silver, and there are parties every day--a perfect opportunity for havoc wreaking. So the small-town demons sneak into a crate en route to America. A series of mishaps keeps them stranded in a warehouse near the shipyards for fifty years. When they are finally freed they find themselves in a stranger world than they ever imagined. It's going to be a challenge to find ways to torment this all-new variety of humans who bustle around in cars, speak on cell phones, and watch TV--but they'll manage.
Francine Prose and Mark Podwal's clever tale will delight readers of all ages with its sly humor and mysterious full- and double-page smudgy gouache illustrations. This entirely original tale tastes strongly of the Old World, with the wry seasoning of modernity. (Ages 6 to 10) --Emilie Coulter
From Publishers Weekly
Expert at refashioning Jewish folktales, Prose (previously paired with Podwal for The Angel's Mistake: Stories of Chelm) invents one just right for contemporary audiences. The story begins in Chelm, the legendary town of fools, where demons are just itching to ruin the party Reb Pupkin and his wife are giving for their son, Chaim, visiting them from America. But when ChaimDnow calling himself CharlesDdescribes the wonders of New York City (streets paved with gold, meals five times a day, parties all day and all night), the demons believe him. They slip themselves into a packing crate bound for America but, for various reasons, the crate goes unopened for more than 50 years. When the demons finally see New York, their tricks don't carry much weight. If they make the milk go sour, for example, people "would just go to the corner and get more." Even their decision to unveil themselves backfiresDthey do not know they are at a Halloween party, where their scary appearance will go undetected. Eventually, they figure out how to cause trouble (personal computers, for example, present rich possibilities). This funny, unexpectedly sympathetic story finds its match in Podwal's illustrations. Less folkloric than in previous works, his paintings discreetly isolate key elements of the narrative. The understated compositions keep the demons' doings puckish rather than wicked, and the sunny colors buoy the already light tone. Ages 5-up.
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