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Too Young for Yiddish Hardcover – February 1, 2002

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Michelson, best known for such witty collections of verse as Animals That Ought to Be, returns to the intergenerational themes of his Grandpa's Gamble for this nostalgic volume, handsomely illustrated by Waldman (The Golden City) in a sepia-toned palette recalling old family albums. Aaron, a baseball enthusiast who roots for the Brooklyn Dodgers, watches as his zayde (grandfather) moves in, bringing his library of Yiddish books ("Had Zayde really read them all? Each with its own ideas and mysteries. Each with its own secret world"). But Zayde declines to teach Aaron Yiddish: "[In America] Jews should speak English just like everyone else." Not until after Aaron has graduated from high school does he realize the importance of learning about Zayde's Yiddish heritage. In the end, Aaron teaches his own son Yiddish. Michelson sprinkles the text with Yiddish and the publisher has bound the book "back to front," like a Yiddish book. The story possesses both power and pathos, and its message, that Yiddish is an endangered language, is urgent. The afterword, which will hold readers' attention as well, describes Aaron's real-life counterpart, founder of the National Yiddish Book Center. Michelson's delivery, from its grown-up protagonist to its exhortation to learn a language not readily available to most children, may make the book best suited to sharing with a grandparent or parent. Ages 5-9.

Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From School Library Journal

Grades 2-4--A tribute to Yiddish books and to Aaron Lansky, founder of the National Yiddish Book Center in Amherst, MA, this is an ambitious but ultimately unsuccessful picture book. Zayde (Grandfather) comes to live with the fictional Aaron's family, bringing along his beloved books. When the boy asks his grandfather to teach him Yiddish, the man inexplicably tells the child that he is "too young for Yiddish," and that in America, "Jews should speak English just like everyone else." As the boy grows up, the two share a love of baseball. When Aaron is an adult, Zayde, now a very old man, throws his collection in the trash, saying, "For Yiddish it is the bottom of the ninth, with two outs and no one on base." Aaron retrieves the books and learns to read them with the help of his grandfather; later, he shares them with his own son. While the subject is interesting and unusual, the point of view is adult and nostalgic. A stilted style and Waldman's static watercolor and pen-and-ink illustrations keep young readers at an even greater distance. Rendered in monotonous tans and grays, they depict Jews and the Eastern-European culture in stereotypical shtetl images that distort their vitality and variety.
Linda R. Silver, Jewish Education Center of Cleveland, OH
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 6 and up
  • Grade Level: 1 - 12
  • Hardcover: 32 pages
  • Publisher: Charlesbridge (February 1, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0881061182
  • ISBN-13: 978-0881061185
  • Product Dimensions: 10.4 x 0.4 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #160,894 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By B. Lynn Wynn on April 21, 2002
Format: Hardcover
When one picks up this book, a momentary confusion sets in. The reader shifts the book in her hand, wondering whether she is seeing a mistake, for the book appears to be made backwards! What is usually the front bears no title, picture or author's name. In their place are a scan code and the words "Like a Yiddish book, this book begins on the other side." Accompanying this sentence are two short book comments by authors Jane Yolen and Maurice Sendak. Well, this reviewer thought, if Yolen and Sendak like the book, it must be a winner!
And a winner it is, beautifully written and telling a warm story of the relationship of Aaron, a young Jewish boy, and his zayde (Yiddish for "grandfather"). Zayde and his many books come to live with Aaron's family after his wife dies. All the books are in Yiddish, which Aaron would love to learn in order to read them, but Zayde says Aaron is too young.
Many years later Zayde throws away his library of books because his eyesight fails him, and he thinks "in America the soup has lost its flavor. Everyone mixes too well; no one remembers anymore where they came from." Aaron rescues the books, and convinces Zayde to teach him Yiddish. Their already loving relationship strengthens as together they share Zayde's life story and the traditions of the Yiddish language and way of life.
Neil Waldman's pen and watercolor illustrations are beautifully touching and evoke a nostalgic feeling. The sepia tones of the warm palette tie scenes of the past to those of the present and future. Yiddish words in the background also serve to give the reader an idea of what the language looks like.
In the text, Yiddish words are used liberally and appear in italics. A glossary at the end (front) of the book further explains what the words mean.
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