A Jewish folk tale gets the Peter Jackson treatment in this picture book.
The original story—found in the Talmud—is very short. A young man visits two famous rabbis and says that he will convert to their religion if they can teach him everything in the Torah while standing on one foot. The first teacher, Rabbi Shammai, gets angry and chases him away. But Rabbi Hillel says, “Do not do to others what you do not want them to do to you.” Anything else, he says, is commentary. But Glaser has expanded the story to the length of a Hobbit movie. Before the young man reaches Shammai’s house, he meets two other rabbis, a bird, and a street full of people, all of whom have morals to teach him. Readers may wonder if the tale really needed that much back story. Balaguer’s pictures, on the other hand, add a great deal to the book. A picture of a bird, standing on a branch on one foot, is both graceful and hilarious. The mixed-media images aren’t just illustrated, but built, with fragments of Hebrew text worked into the scenes.
The young man’s journey has a few too many stops along the way, especially for a story about an impatient person. If he’d dawdled less, he could have been there and back again. (Picture book. 5-9)