According to legend, some four centuries or so ago a Rabbi in Prague dreamt that the Lord commanded him to create a creature to protect Jews from those who would do them wrong. The Rabbi fashioned a giant from clay and, with the help of a cabalistic spell, brought the creature to life. The story, of course, served as the basis for Frankenstein
. Barbara Rogasky, who has retold other traditional stories in such previous books as Rapunzel
and The Water of Life: A Tale from the Brothers Grimm
, brings the 400-year-old story back to life with The Golem
From Publishers Weekly
Working with the Jewish legend that also inspired David Wisniewski's new picture book (reviewed p. 83) and a novel-length retelling by Isaac Bashevis Singer (see p. 85), Rogasky (Smoke and Ashes: The Story of the Holocaust) goes beyond the story of the Golem's creation and mission in combating the anti-Semitism of 16th-century Prague to weave in folklore about his doings, both antic and tragic. While she is unflinching in her portraits of the degrading poverty and false accusations suffered by the Jews, Rogasky also mixes in a few broadly comic elements, as in a chapter in which the Golem goes to market and returns with an entire stall, vendor and all. Rabbi Loew, a model of eloquence in the Wisniewski version, here speaks with a folksy inflection: "What's to be afraid?" he says to his wife, who is startled at the sight of the Golem. For the most part, the tone is somber: "The story here is one of blood and murder. Hatred is its root. In hatred there is evil, and in evil there is madness." Caldecott Medalist Hyman (St. George and the Dragon) makes the monstrous Golem and the aged rabbi almost as romantic as fairy tale princesses. Her inky watercolors lend depth to a sprawling tale that vacillates somewhat unsuccessfully between horror and humor, but which admirably captures the strange slavishness of the Golem and the violent climate of a black age. Ages 12-up.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.