Stavans presents the story of Sammy and Ilan, two Jewish boys living in Southern California, who combine their individual strengths to face bullying.
Sammy and Ilan are friends who complement each other. Sammy’s strengths are in math and science; Ilan excels at languages, including Nahuatl, the language of the Aztecs. Sammy faces trouble from bullies at school and looks toward the story of the golem from Jewish folklore for inspiration. He uses clay from the Dead Sea to create his own golem, but his is an Aztec warrior. The warrior does offer protection, but, just as in the Jewish tale, it grows too powerful, and Sammy must find a way to bring Golemito back under control. Originally published in Cricket, the story transitions well into a picture book for older children. Heavy, dark illustrations create a serious tone, appropriate for the age of the intended audience. However, while some readers may enjoy the rare fusion of Jewish and Aztec mythology and culture, others may be uncomfortable with the portrayal of the Aztec warrior/Golemito as a savage and a possession. Readers may also be left wondering how Sammy will face his continued troubles with bullies once Golemito is gone.
This competent picture book addresses the problem of bullying and offers an original, if not completely successful, blend of Jewish and Aztec culture and folklore. (Picture book. 7-11)