GERSHON'S MONSTER

A STORY FOR THE JEWISH NEW YEAR

Kimmel (Jar of Fools, p. 1287, etc.) is particularly skilled in refashioning the ritual and folklore of Judaism into widely accessible yet faith-filled retellings.

Here he recounts a soul-satisfying Hasidic legend and incorporates the persona and teachings of the 18th-century Ba'al Shem Tov ("Master of the Good Name") Rabbi Israel ben Eliezer. Gershon, rude and self-absorbed "paid no attention to how he treated others and he didn't care. For he could shed his . . . thoughtless acts like a dog sheds hair." Before each Shabbat he swept his sins (personified as impish, black creatures) into his cellar. "And once a year, on Rosh Hashanah, he stuffed them into a sack and dragged them down to the sea." But Gershon and his wife were childless. Always seeking the quick fix, he blunders in to see a tzaddik, a wonder Rabbi. The Rabbi emphasizes with Gershon's wife but cautions Gershon: "Did you think you could live so thoughtlessly forever? The sea cries out because you have polluted her waters. (Y)our wife . . . will give birth to twins . . . They will be with you five years." Heedless, the ever-arrogant Gershon is convinced he can stave off the inevitable. Five years pass and his children, Sarah and Joseph, are playing on the seashore. Horribly, Gershon's sins coalesce into a huge, black sea monster that threatens their fragile lives: "On each scale was written one of Gershon's misdeeds." Horrified, he began to plead for forgiveness—for the first time in his life. God was merciful. He acknowledged Gershon's heartfelt act of t'shuvah—repentance—and the monster was transformed into a cleansing rain. And Gershon? Having returned to his better nature—he made amends, kept "his soul clean" and never saw the monster again. A deft watercolorist, Muth (Come on Rain!, 1999 ) is particularly skilled at limning personality thorough the telling gesture. The dark grays and blacks of Gershon's sins threaten the soft earth tones, lush greens, sunny yellows. The fluid, clear blues of the sea and the freshened horizon line communicate the gratitude, the exhilaration—and the freedom—of truly placing our sins behind us.

Sustaining. (Folktale. 5-adult)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2000

ISBN: 978-0-439-10839-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: April 30, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2000

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Plays to Rowling’s fan base; equally suited for gifting and reading aloud or alone.

THE CHRISTMAS PIG

A 7-year-old descends into the Land of the Lost in search of his beloved comfort object.

Jack has loved Dur Pig long enough to wear the beanbag toy into tattered shapelessness—which is why, when his angry older stepsister chucks it out the car window on Christmas Eve, he not only throws a titanic tantrum and viciously rejects the titular replacement pig, but resolves to sneak out to find DP. To his amazement, the Christmas Pig offers to guide him to the place where all lost Things go. Whiffs of childhood classics, assembled with admirable professionalism into a jolly adventure story that plays all the right chords, hang about this tale of loss and love. Along with family drama, Rowling stirs in fantasy, allegory, and generous measures of social and political commentary. Pursued by the Land’s cruel and monstrous Loser, Jack and the Christmas Pig pass through territories from the Wastes of the Unlamented, where booger-throwing Bad Habits roam, to the luxurious City of the Missed for encounters with Hope, Happiness, and Power (a choleric king who rejects a vote that doesn’t go his way). A joyful reunion on the Island of the Beloved turns poignant, but Christmas Eve being “a night for miracles and lost causes,” perhaps there’s still a chance (with a little help from Santa) for everything to come right? In both the narrative and Field’s accomplished, soft-focus illustrations, the cast presents White.

Plays to Rowling’s fan base; equally suited for gifting and reading aloud or alone. (Fantasy. 8-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 12, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-338-79023-8

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Oct. 21, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2021

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Only for dedicated fans of the series.

HOW TO CATCH A MONSTER

From the How To Catch… series

When a kid gets the part of the ninja master in the school play, it finally seems to be the right time to tackle the closet monster.

“I spot my monster right away. / He’s practicing his ROAR. / He almost scares me half to death, / but I won’t be scared anymore!” The monster is a large, fluffy poison-green beast with blue hands and feet and face and a fluffy blue-and-green–striped tail. The kid employs a “bag of tricks” to try to catch the monster: in it are a giant wind-up shark, two cans of silly string, and an elaborate cage-and-robot trap. This last works, but with an unexpected result: the monster looks sad. Turns out he was only scaring the boy to wake him up so they could be friends. The monster greets the boy in the usual monster way: he “rips a massive FART!!” that smells like strawberries and lime, and then they go to the monster’s house to meet his parents and play. The final two spreads show the duo getting ready for bed, which is a rather anticlimactic end to what has otherwise been a rambunctious tale. Elkerton’s bright illustrations have a TV-cartoon aesthetic, and his playful beast is never scary. The narrator is depicted with black eyes and hair and pale skin. Wallace’s limping verses are uninspired at best, and the scansion and meter are frequently off.

Only for dedicated fans of the series. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4926-4894-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky

Review Posted Online: July 15, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2017

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