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Dreidels on the Brain Hardcover – October 4, 2016
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From School Library Journal
Gr 4–7-The year is 1971. Joel is a dorky 12-year-old amateur magician from one of the few Jewish families in town. He's dealing with his parents' poverty, his dad's crippling arthritis and temporary coma, and with being asked to teach his whole school about Hanukkah at the Winter Holiday Assembly. Joel's talents as a jokester and his ever-ready magic tricks get him through his daily difficulties. Even the dreaded assembly is a success because of Joel's storytelling chutzpah and his family's willingness to embrace their own weirdness. The author is a professional storyteller who has based this book loosely on his own childhood. Young Joel's first-person narration addresses the audience directly, self-consciously mocking and explaining Jewish customs and history. Joel often sounds like an adult looking back at 1971 rather than a child living it, especially when he is touched by the Holocaust memories of a stranger on a bus. His level of Yiddishkeit ("Man-O-Manischewitz!") seems extreme for an assimilated child, giving the impression of a young Billy Crystal rather than a real kid. That said, he is a sympathetic character, and his jokes are (mostly) funny. While the plot meanders a bit, the ride is entertaining. The satisfying conclusion allows Joel to feel pride in his family, to triumph in front of his friends, and to get the (non-Jewish) girl. VERDICT An entertaining, slightly over-the-top slice of Jewish suburban life in the 1970s, with the bonus of magic tricks and jokes. Give to readers who like realistic, character-driven stories.-Heidi Rabinowitz, Congregation B'nai Israel, Boca Raton, FL
Praise for Dreidels on the Brain
National Jewish Book Award Finalist
"A welcome addition to the canon of holiday stories."—Booklist
"This fresh, fast-paced read is a must purchase for any middle school collection. . . . As an aspiring magician, Joel understands manipulating belief and often uses his magic as a metaphor. . . . Seriousness is artfully balanced with Joel's comedic explanations of Yiddish words, and his perception of Jewish traditions."—School Library Connection
"Relatable and humorous. . . . A coming-of-age novel steeped in tradition [that] will appeal to anyone who has felt different and those who believe—or want to believe—in miracles."—VOYA
Top customer reviews
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Dreidels on the Brain
Funny, sad, inspiring book, so much depth, I’ll share just a bit of it. e
Encouragement to look for the good, the orange, in even the worst of times, “Remember the sweet things in life.”
“I really want to believe in magic . . . and that somewhere, on the far side of Chelm, someone is giving away apples . . . sounds crazy! Then again, who knows?” (Very much like a Hoja story of free seeds, a reminder of the stories and so much else we all have in common).
Discouraged, “stories have happy endings . . . life doesn’t" but maybe it can, at least in part, for a bit.
Humor: “my second rabbit. I named the first one Houdini, but he escaped. I should have seen that coming?” (Speaking of names, I spent time looking back, thinking I’d missed mention of his last name. I’m not giving it away, just advising not to worry, like all good punchlines, it’s worth the wait).
Deciding to spell the holiday “Hanukkah” why? “why not?”
I LOVE this book, and now, on Joel’s recommendation, I’m going to look for a copy of ZLATEH THE GOAT.
went straight for some comfort in the book Dreidels on the Brain. I blocked out all the
news and immersed myself in the book. Reading it brought so much light into the
darkness and I continued to use the book as my "go to" for comfort
until I just finished it. I loved it. It brought up memories for me of 1971, the year of my bat mitzvah. I was
transported to another world. I laughed and cried with Joel (lots of
great humor) and now I want you to go see Joel at a book signing and see if he'll do
some magic tricks!
The idea to have a chapter for each candle was wonderful. I loved the
story of the Auschwitz survivor and the orange. I felt I was there. I
loved all the Chelm stories. Each character was so well
developed....and what a great ending and beautiful re-dedication.
I love everything about the book. It's one of those books that I didn't want to
end because I felt part of the family. It will be a big hit for people of all ages.
Most recent customer reviews
Wonderful book. I loved it.
I would recommend it to anyone aged 12 to 112.