Newly married Yosef and Estrella move from a small Moroccan mountain village to Casablanca so that Yosef can earn a living.
Life in the big city is diametrically different from life in the Atlas Mountains. Relatives provide work for him, living quarters, furnishings, including a mirrored wardrobe. This last causes great anxiety for the bridal pair. Each sees other, handsomer, more beautiful, mate-stealing intruders in the mirror’s misread reflection—new spouses far superior to innocent “mountain Jews.” The rabbi is summoned, but he, also an innocent, sees the reflection of an unknown old man, full of wisdom. Who are these other people? This is the central mystery and moral of the tale. Though shaped like a folk tale, the story appears to be an original one, but it begs questions. What are mountain Jews? Are they like the Chelmites? Why does a mirror baffle them so? Illustrations add to the confusion, as features swing between flat shapes and careful shadings. Is the kindly, elfish-looking rabbi really the same person as the stoic, dour reflection in the following double-page spread—and the goofy rabbi caricature in the final one? Though the illustrations are populated by characters dressed in timeless North African cloaks and gowns, they go no further to establish a specific time or setting.
As a folklorish tale—almost an extended anecdote—the brief telling leaves many questions for readers, and neither the dark, heavy illustrations nor the text provides answers. (Picture book. 4-8)