Books by Uri Shulevitz

Released: May 12, 2015

"A winner. (Picture book. 2-6)"
Slow and steady wins the race. Read full book review >
DUSK by Uri Shulevitz
Kirkus Star
by Uri Shulevitz, illustrated by Uri Shulevitz
Released: Sept. 17, 2013

"Shulevitz elegantly captures the magical quality of twilight as well as the gleaming allure of the bright lights of the big city. (Picture book. 4-8)"
A grandfather, his grandson and their hound dog stroll through a city as the sun sets, meeting comical characters and observing the brightly lit city at night. Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 1, 2009

The child in this brief episode may dress in a sailor suit and live in quaintly appointed apartment surroundings, but his lively imagination strikes a universal chord. Setting sail in a ship that starts out as a model, the young narrator lands on a remote isle for a glimpse of Malenostro Malevostro the "pirate of one hundred seas!" The adventure comes to a sudden end, though, when the lad catches sight of a glowering portrait on the wall and scurries out of the room—but then regroups and later returns to taunt the thickly mustached figure: "You can't leave this wall, / you can't leave this room, / but I can go far away on an exciting journey." In Shulevitz's sketchy, intimate watercolors, close walls dissolve from patterned wallpaper to exotic locales and back behind the now-intrepid, now-anxious young explorer as indulgent adults occasionally look in. Three helpful monkeys on the island constitute the closest approach to Wild Things here, but that may suit children who prefer a quieter style of play than wild rumpuses. (Picture book. 5-8) Read full book review >
Released: March 4, 2008

A refugee boy learns more than geography from his father in this autobiographical memoir. A small boy and his parents flee war's devastation and travel "far, far east to another country," where summer is hot and winter is cold. Aliens in a bleak land, the boy and his parents sleep on a dirt floor and are very hungry. One day the boy's father comes home from the bazaar with a map instead of bread and the boy is furious. But when the father hangs the map, it covers an entire wall, filling the barren room with color. The boy spends hours studying and drawing the map and making rhymes out of exotic place names. He forgets he has no toys or books. Without leaving the room, he journeys to deserts, beaches, mountains, temples, fruit groves and cities. In the spare text, Shulevitz pays tribute to his father as he recounts his family's flight from Warsaw to Turkestan in 1939. Signature watercolor illustrations contrast the stark misery of refugee life with the boundless joys of the imagination. (Picture book. 4-8)Read full book review >
SO SLEEPY STORY by Uri Shulevitz
Released: Aug. 11, 2006

Caldecott Medalist Shulevitz spins a dreamy story of a household at night with a little boy and everything around him asleep. All the familiar items of this home have faces with sleeping eyes: chairs, tables, dishes, toys, curtains—even the light fixture. There's a somber feeling to the initial spreads, with lurking shadows and murky colors. Then a golden beam of music wafts in the window, waking everyone up with dancing notes and blaring horns. The anthropomorphic musical notes dance with the dishes and the furniture for hours and then mysteriously disappear back out the window, returning the household to its somnolent state. The final illustrations show subtle changes wrought by the influence of the music through a warmer palette of blues and greens and smiles on the household items and the moon. Assuredly soporific for snoozing. (Picture book. 3-6)Read full book review >
Released: April 6, 2005

Shulevitz recasts the impersonal account of a great medieval Jewish traveler, who set out to see as many of the places mentioned in the Bible as possible, as a first-person narrative threaded with vivid comments about smells, hazards, misfortunes, spectacles and local legends encountered along the way. The travelogue takes readers over land and water from Tudela in northern Spain to Rome's Arch of Titus and on to Constantinople's Christmas spectacle, through Syria to Crusader-held Jerusalem, then to Persia, and finally Egypt and Mount Sinai. To the text, Shulevitz adds grainy illustrations, done in muted colors and echoing the European pictorial style of the times, with crowd scenes and cityscapes shown in flattened perspective and small, clumsy-looking ships tossed upon wide seas. Capped by a long note and a meaty booklist, this, like James Rumford's much briefer Traveling Man: The Journey of Ibn Battuta, 1325-1354 (2001), not only affords glimpses of distant, exotic places, but also captures the wonder and the terror of travel at a time when living through even a short trip was considered a miracle. (Picture book. 8-12)Read full book review >
DAUGHTERS OF FIRE by Fran Manushkin
Released: Sept. 1, 2001

Manushkin floridly retells ten stories about women from the Hebrew Bible, all which will be well known to those who attend religious schools where Biblical stories are told. Although most chapters deal with individuals, Eve, Sarah, Rebecca, Leah, Rachel, etc., she devotes two chapters to "The Women of the Exodus," including Moses's mother, and "The Women in the Wilderness," with the incident of the golden calf. But Hebrew Bible in an English translation should be an example of plain language with certain poetic forms and repetitions meant originally to be transmitted orally. So, when the reteller reduces a perfect line, e.g., "Entreat me not to leave thee . . . " into, "Do not entreat me to leave you . . . " simplicity and clarity are lost, replaced by awkwardness and wordiness. Too often the exclamation point is used to convey excitement and danger, rather than verbs to carry the emotion. Alas, although the book is about the matriarchs, the patriarchs, by and large, still set the stage and are more centrally involved in the drama. Shulevitz (What Is a Wise Bird Like You Doing in a Silly Tale Like This?, 2000, etc.), who continues to experiment with style and media, uses mixed media and creates tactile, textured settings that convey time and place. Settings are striking, but human figures are sometimes strange, especially in profile. When Biblical stories are wanted for oral presentation, these will do and the full-page art carries. But—be warned, the wordy embellishments tend to distract from these ancient stories and histories, which is really too bad in such a lush book. (Nonfiction. 9-12)Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 13, 2000

The much-honored Shulevitz (Snow, 1998, etc.) presents a glorious farrago of good sense and nonsense woven through several linked trickster tales. He matches a hard-to-summarize array of stories-within-stories to scenes of richly dressed noodleheads flying through the air or tottering about unstable-looking landscapes while sporting tall, silly hats and confused expressions. Subjects involve a glib-talking bird who repeatedly escapes captivity; the greedy Emperor of Pickleberry (Pop. 26 ½); his twin brother, who is also the palace janitor; a certain candlestick; a bear in a barrel; and much, much more. Though the general atmosphere is distinctly Chelmish—Shulevitz adapts stories learned from his mother for parts of this—beneath all the loopy logic and kaleidoscopic plotting is a pointed celebration of the triumph of wit over power. Nonetheless, readers who prefer tidy beginning-middle-end tales with clear lessons had best steer clear. (Picture book. 7-9) Read full book review >
SNOW by Uri Shulevitz
Released: Oct. 1, 1998

Shulevitz (The Secret Room, 1993, etc.) implies that there is much to be said for youthful hope amid all the dour nay-saying from adults. Here, early flakes hold out the promise to a boy and his dog of the season's first snowfall, and prompt elders to pooh-pooh any chance of accumulation. As if by force of will, aided and abetted by the mysteries of nature—and despite radio and TV forecasts to the contrary—the flakes keep coming, swirling, dusting, covering. Finally, the town is draped in an encompassing cloak of snow; a number of storybook characters (that had been images on the facade of a children's bookstore) break into a winter dance with the young boy, giving the hook a pleasantly fantastical turn. The small town European setting is the sort that Shulevitz does best: evocative, timeless, and as irresistible as the first snow. Read full book review >
THE GOLDEN GOOSE by The Brothers Grimm
Released: Oct. 1, 1995

A drily entertaining version of the tale of the simpleton and his golden goose. Whoever touches the goose sticks to it, but the simpleton doesn't notice and wanders into a city where a king has issued a proclamation that anyone who can make his daughter laugh can marry her. The simpleton immediately heads for the palace, followed by a stuck chain of people and this parade makes the princess laugh. Then there is one more ordeal, which the simpleton easily carries out. Deadpan humor enlivens the telling, written in a style that is so elliptical as to make it read as if something were missing. The most prominent feature of the illustrations are the exaggerated and rigid outlines of angular characters and impossibly wobbly houses. Shulevitz (The Secret Room, 1993, etc.) achieves his strongest effects by putting the jagged, colored figures against white backgrounds. He deliberately creates dissonance between text and pictures, and the success of this varies from page to page: Several tableaux of trains of characters behind the oblivious simpleton are perfect in timing and delivery, but offer no clue as to why everyone comes unstuck. (Picture book/folklore. 4-8)Read full book review >
THE SECRET ROOM by Uri Shulevitz
Released: Oct. 20, 1993

Another provocative fable from a Caldecott medalist whose most recent book was Toddlecreek Post Office (1990). When a king meets a man who explains that his beard is black while the hair on his head is white because "my head is older," the king decrees, "You must not tell this to anyone until you have seen my face ninety-nine times." When the king's wily counselor tries to trick the man into breaking this edict, the man asks for only 99 copper coins in return—but they bear the king's likeness. Impressed with his cleverness, the king makes him treasurer; later, after again outwitting the jealous counselor by coming up with an honest and modest rebuttal to his false charges, he's appointed counselor in his place. Shulevitz's art—richly saturated colors, simple, angular forms, strongly energetic compositions, adroit caricatures—are a particular pleasure here, while the tale's classic structure and gentle wisdom especially recommend it for storytelling. (Picture book. 4-10)Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 30, 1991

Fifteen brief stories, some from oral tradition (Eastern Europe, the Middle East, the Orient) and others transcribed as early as the fifth century (in Babylon) or as late as the nineteenth. Full notes give sources and point out parallels with more familiar stories—"The Water Witch," a variant of "Hansel and Gretel," features a Solomonic whale king; the Turkish "Katanya" is a Thumbelina-like child, gift of the prophet Elijah—who also rewards a hard-working rag-merchant in "The Magic Sandals of Abu Kassim." Many of the stories are didactic, but the instruction is always gentle. The philosophically generous tone is dramatically exemplified in "The Bear and the Children": after the mother has rescued her children from the bear's belly, she replaces them with loaves of bread so that "when the bear awoke, his belly was full, and he was perfectly happy"—an extraordinary contrast to the retributive justice in the Grimms' "The Wolf and the Seven Little Kids." Clear, well-honed language, intriguing detail, good pacing, and lots of variety make this an excellent choice for storytellers. Appealing format and Shulevitz's occasional full- page watercolors—elegantly structured, rich with the stories' flavor and wit, and painted in bright, sunny colors that perfectly reflect their lighthearted wisdom—will recommend the book to young readers. A fine collection that belongs in every library. (Folklore. 7+)Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 30, 1990

An elegiac portrait of a vanishing phenomenon: a country post office that serves as community center for old men, old dogs, or young mothers, with a gentle postmaster who's as likely to help sew on a button as sell a stamp. In the end, without discussion, an inspector closes the place: too small. Shulevitz's masterly watercolors—faceted, Braque-like, in glowing blues and browns—are full of warmth and the tension of implied drama; his affectionate descriptions of Toddlecreek's citizens are imbued with a sad, wry humor. A beautiful book that makes a quiet but telling plea for little things of value, always at risk from the juggernaut of progress. Read full book review >
Released: Nov. 1, 1986

An elegantly produced animal fantasy by an eminent illustrator. Jeremiah, a large-nosed, middle-aged monkey who lives "on a strange planet curiously resembling our own," is a descendant of C. Runoz de Noserac, famed for nose, sword, and poetry. His three adventures are a trip to the Shake'n'Roll Dancin' Hole, where he is uncomfortably out of place amidst the "ear-deafening noise, faintly resembling music," and the posturing revelers; a quest for his missing umbrella, assisted by one Winchester Bone, P.I., during which he becomes friends with a series of such interesting characters as a retired woodchuck and P.S. Beaver, an architect who has incorporated the umbrella in a charmingly unexpected house which she has constructed of found materials; and winning a pie-eating contest after foiling twin foxes caught trying to cheat by sharing the pie consumption. Shulevitz' 10 beautifully composed black-and-white illustrations perfectly reflect his carefully imagined world, where gentlemanly behavior and gently comical word-play convey a subtly benign philosphy of life. Like Randall Jarrell's lovely tales, this will need to be introduced to children and may not appeal to them all, but should reward those lucky enough to respond to it. It's also the sort of caper adopted by sophisticated adults. Read full book review >
THE GOLEM by Isaac Bashevis Singer
Released: Nov. 1, 1982

With more story, as well as more craft and substance, than in Beverly Brodsky McDermott's histrionic picture-book version (1976), this tells of Rabbi Leib of Prague and the golem he created to save a banker and other ghetto Jews from execution for false charges. The golem accomplishes the task he's charged with, but then refuses to bend down and allow the rabbi to erase from his forehead the name of God that gives him life. Because the rabbi has given in to his wife's pleas to use the golem for an unauthorized though charitable purpose, he has lost the power over his creation. Without dramatics, Singer makes a proper mythic melodrama of the early trial, bringing out the historical and elemental reality of the climate of injustice; and his account of the golem's subsequent misdeeds and confusion is all the more effective for reading like an unadorned record. This is strong material, and Singer shrewdly recognizes the psychological and philosophical reverberations without underlining, elaborating, or deviating from the straight account. (The only explicit speculation comes in the dosing suggestion that perhaps love—here the housemaid Miriam's for the golem—"has even more power than a Holy Name.") Shulevitz' black-and-white chiaroscuro illustrations, on the other hand, give the events a remote and serious look and emphasize the monumental lifelessness of the golem. One longs for a glint of life or expression somewhere—but the legend can support Shulevitz' approach. Read full book review >
THE TREASURE by Uri Shulevitz
Released: Feb. 1, 1979

As Jacobs tells it in "The Pedlar of Swaffham" and two 1971 picture-book versions set forth, a poor man is directed by a dream to London Bridge, where a shopkeeper dismissively recites his dream of a treasure buried in the traveler's own back yard. Here the dreamer is a poor old man named Isaac (Jewish? Shulevitz doesn't say), the setting indefinite (just "a bridge by the Royal Palace"), and instead of a church the man builds an unspecified "house of prayer" in Thanksgiving. What Shulevitz gives up in cultural specificity he apparently seeks to gain in a kind of generalized holiness; his lovely colors glow with what might well be taken for celestial light. But, a child might ask—the house of prayer notwithstanding—what's so holy about going off and back for a treasure? And, visually, what's so interesting about a solitary old man walking through forests and mountains and then back again to his own cramped street? Without the associations of a particular faith or setting, we have only the old man's conclusion: "Sometimes one must travel far to discover what is near"—a message unlikely to ring bells at the picture-book level. Read full book review >
DAWN by Uri Shulevitz
Kirkus Star
illustrated by Uri Shulevitz
Released: Oct. 15, 1974

Shulevitz' deep-blue, oval watercolors draw you into the still, quiet spot "under a tree by the lake" where "an old man and his grandson cuff up in their blankets." Gradually, as dawn approaches, the blues become lighter and the forms more distinct. Slowly the moonlit lake shivers, and "vapors start to rise." The man and boy get up, light a fire for breakfast, and roll up their blankets. As they move off in their rowboat, "suddenly the mountain and the lake are green" and the hushed, misty scenes give way to one double-page abstraction of the spectral response to sunrise that recalls Marvell's "annihilating all that's made/ To a green thought in a green shade." Perhaps not every child will be receptive to this lovely impressionistic book, but on the other hand it is hard not to be enveloped by Shulevitz' mood of muted serenity. Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 1, 1973

Singer's broadside history reminds us that the population of Chelm consists of no one but fools, and they've known nothing but trouble ever since Gronam Ox, first ruler and Sage of Sages, invented the word crisis. Chelm is then perceived to be So badly off that the council of sages (Dopey, Numskull, etc.) agrees that only a war can save the village, and though the soldiers end up invading the wrong town, never mind: "The truth is, the whole world considers us fools. No matter whom we attack, it will be exactly what they deserve." Instead it's the invaders who get what they deserve, and as "a lost war sooner or later is followed by a revolution, that is what happened in Chelm." But the rebel's decree against money only aggravates the discontent and confusion, so Feitel the thief takes over — only to be replaced, when his policies lead to further disaster, by Gronam and the sages back from exile. At last the Women's Party, led by Gronam's wife Yente Pesha, decides to run the government while the men do the dishes — "but Gronam remains optimistic: 'The future is bright. The chances are good that some day the whole world will be one great Chelm!'" Shulevitz' view of all parties — the gaping, head-scratching sages, the toothless, club-waving mob, Feitel's sinister thugs with cigarettes dangling from their mouths, and the orating yentes wielding rolling pins — is as consistently dim as Singer's; the Chelmites' universal uncomeliness in both pictures and action is relieved only by the ludicrous extent of the caricature. Read full book review >
Released: Feb. 5, 1973

An odd fellow, ragged and tattered, yet (wearing) a top hat," the magician appears in the village on the eve of Passover and performs all manner of marvelous tricks. There is only one home without the traditional cup of wine for Elijah, and it is to this poor couple who have "no food and not even a single candle" that the stranger invites himself as holiday guest. "I have everything we need," he announces, and conjures up a feast. After the rabbi has assured the couple that if the food is real then it cannot be evil magic, they realize that their guest (now vanished) has been the prophet Elijah himself. Shulevitz's finely cross-hatched illustrations make the magician's outlandishness and the couple's poverty clearly palpable, at the same time lighting each scene with an otherworldly glow. Read full book review >
Released: Aug. 31, 1972

Spectacularly illustrated, the unspectacular tale of a runaway soldier's promotion to general after he spends a night in the forest with the disguised tsar, whom he saves from a band of robbers by whacking off the intruders' heads. There is both suspense and humor in the overnight adventure (to which Shulevitz gives an ominous intensity) but little of the rhythmic language or the richness of detail and diverting characters that distinguished Ransome's The Fool of the World and the Flying Ship (1968). Some of Shulevitz' outdoor scenes resemble those he did for the previous tale, but there are also views of the night forest with haunting blues and mauves added to the natural colors, and depictions of cottage and castle, with elaborated folk art figures and motifs, that make muted, shadowed use of the heavy black lines and fluorescent rainbow colors of Oh What a Noise (1971). Shulevitz brings all these styles together with aplomb and unabashed artifice, signifying a considerable advance over Oh What a Noise but perhaps a decadent departure from the exhilarating fresh air loveliness of The Fool of the World. Read full book review >
RAIN, RAIN RIVERS by Uri Shulevitz
Released: Sept. 15, 1969

A quotation from Lao Tzu — "Without going out of my door/ I know the universe" — and a reminder "in a raindrop (is) the ocean," both on the flap, express the substance of the book, and express it more forcibly than the book itself. The failure is somewhere in the illustrations: in the cold, distancing blues and yellows and greens, in the immobile streams of water like frozen ribbons, in the uneasy conjunction of concrete abstraction, suggestive naturalism and comical whimsy. The text, however, is tersely poetic and although adults may be disconcerted, children won't be, by the resemblance of the beginning to the opening of One Monday Morning: the rain-washed window, the rain-slicked street. But here it is raining harder, blotting out the buildings, "rushing down the eaves, gushing out the drainpipes. The little girl snug behind her dormer window thinks "Tomorrow I'll sail my little boats," Meanwhile it rains over fields... hills... grass... ponds. "Rills roll down hills, fall into brooks, rush into rivers and race to the seas.... Ocean are swelling. Melting the skies... Tomorrow new plants will grow... We'll run barefoot in puddles and stamp in warm mud." Right now "The plant on my window is beginning to grow. I know it." Lyrical and sometimes lovely, sometimes impressive (especially the swelling oceans) but always there's a certain remoteness, a failure to engage the viewer directly. Read full book review >
Released: March 28, 1967

A floppy toy leaning against a rain-streaked window...a little boy gazing out the window...a dismal, deserted city street...One Monday morning (turn page quickly) the king (carrying an umbrella), the queen, and the little prince (in procession) came to visit me. But I wasn't home. (I was waiting at the bus stop) So the little prince said, "In that case we shall return on Tuesday." On Tuesday morning the procession was joined by the knight, But I wasn't home (I was on the subway). Each day the procession grew longer and larger and more splendid on arrival and more disheartened on departure, until... On Sunday morning the king, the queen, the little prince, the knight, a royal guard, the royal cook, the royal barber, the royal jester, and a little dog came to visit me. And I was home. So the little prince said. "We just dropped in to say hello." The little boy examining a deck of playing cards...the floppy toy, looking very like the royal barber, leaning against the sun-filled window.... The magnificence of the royal personages, expressively outlined and colored in the acid shades of old playing cards, contrasts with the muted tones of the tenement and the street. One single surprise—but the child can enjoy the visit again and again just by turning the pages and repeating the refrain. Read full book review >
Released: May 6, 1964

When Will Fanshaw protested the clock and calendar routine imposed by his Grandfather, the old man assured him, "Change is a very bad thing." He said "As a rule" and had one for everything. None of these had ever been broken until Tom Kitten arrived. It was stormy, the door had been looked for the night on schedule, but after much soul searching, the Grandfather let him in. Tom, of course, had his own set of rules. The foremost seemed to be to get out nights to the woods that bordered their cottage. This was absolutely forbidden territory because the Grandfather had a rule about not going near them. One night, Tom slipped out when the locked door was reluctantly opened to a policeman. Will and his Grandfather went to search for him. They were lost in the never-before-investigated woods. The fierce animals that the Grandfather had suspected there, turned out to be small animals quietly going about their own routines. With catly assurance, Tom Kitten found them and led the way home. There, a re-examination of the rules by a newly thoughtful Grandfather led to a separation of the inconsequential from the sensible and necessary. The watercolor illustrations catch the air of a starkly ordered existence as well as the gloom of the night in the woods. Easy to tell or read aloud or to read alone, the story has comfort for the rule-bound as well as some reminders for chronic rule breakers. Read full book review >
THE MOON IN MY ROOM by Uri Shulevitz
Released: Sept. 11, 1963

Microscopic, thin-lined illustrations executed in faded shades show the imaginative world which is a boy's room. A neglected bear removes himself to an out-of-the-way spot. When boy finds bear, he crowns bear king and promises to share his private moon and stars with him. Surrounded by a sleep-inducing quiet, the book a spark- even slight — which is needed. Read full book review >