On the eve of Rosh Hashanah, a white Jewish boy receives the unusual responsibility of caring for an old, tarnished horn and wonders if his family’s subsequent good fortune could be the result of how he carries out his charge.
Hard times have hit Gabriel’s neighborhood. Many stores surrounding his family’s antiques shop have closed, though Gabriel hopes the new year will bring a turnaround. Then an African-American soldier knocks and hands Gabriel an old neglected horn that belonged to the enlisted man’s grandfather, requesting that the antiques-store owners keep it during his deployment. Kimmel has updated his story “The Samovar,” which appeared in the collection Days of Awe (1991), about the legendary character Elijah who can take on numerous disguises—like a soldier—to help and influence those less fortunate. The Czarist Russian setting is remade into a contemporary American integrated urban community of Muslims, Jews, African-Americans, Latinos, and Asian residents. Over the years Gabriel engages in tzedakah (acts of charity), and the horn magically brightens each time until its gleaming shine represents Gabriel’s family’s kindness and new prosperity. Kimmel’s shorter, more dialogue-driven narrative carries readers to an understanding of Gabriel’s revelation seven years later, when the soldier returns.
A moving update of a powerful story. (author’s note) (Picture book. 5-8)