CANDLE, FEATHER, WOODEN SPOON

NEW JEWISH STORIES

Lovely and entertaining folklore and parables that can proudly stand beside others in their tradition.

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Klein presents a collection of original Jewish parables for all ages, told in the tradition of rabbinic legends and folktales.

In “Yofiel,” one of the author’s contemporary rabbinic legends, archangels armed with colorful sticky notes flutter about and assign tasks among their brethren, ranging from stoking the Burning Bush to reminding geese which way to fly. Yofiel is an enthusiastic yet incompetent angel, not even to be trusted with a blade of grass, who nonetheless becomes the indispensable keeper of the Torah’s secrets. In “Jew,” a homeless man wipes away at the antisemitic graffiti with which a young boy has defaced the wall of a family-run shop; the swirls of his rag send the perpetrator and his classmate (who works there) into a world of glowing shields and laser rain, a living video game depicting crimes against Jews throughout the ages by Haman and the Nazis. In the title tale, another young boy sets off on a fantastical quest facing a giant and sea dragon— the only tools he will need to succeed are the modest hallmarks of Passover: a candle, a feather, and wooden spoon. The parables in this collection were inspired by the Torah, kabbalistic studies, and other Jewish teachings. The stories are short, yet deep and descriptive, with varied settings that span contemporary times, the forests and villages of European folklore, and the time of the Hebrew Bible. Approachable for adults yet told with children in mind, each story is full of wide-eyed curiosity and earnestness, along with comedy, light scares, and lessons on compassion, empathy, and acceptance of the marginalized or derided. Young minds may wonder, “How was Jonah’s journey for the whale?” or “What did children see during the Exodus?” These questions are enthusiastically explored, and each entry ends with simple yet insightful queries for the reader as well. Though primarily aimed at a Jewish audience, the book contains a small, helpful glossary of terms, and Klein’s approachable style and enthusiasm for storytelling will appeal to readers from all backgrounds.

Lovely and entertaining folklore and parables that can proudly stand beside others in their tradition.

Pub Date: May 1, 2023

ISBN: 9780881233568

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Central Conference of American Rabbis Press

Review Posted Online: April 18, 2023

THE SCREWTAPE LETTERS

These letters from some important executive Down Below, to one of the junior devils here on earth, whose job is to corrupt mortals, are witty and written in a breezy style seldom found in religious literature. The author quotes Luther, who said: "The best way to drive out the devil, if he will not yield to texts of Scripture, is to jeer and flout him, for he cannot bear scorn." This the author does most successfully, for by presenting some of our modern and not-so-modern beliefs as emanating from the devil's headquarters, he succeeds in making his reader feel like an ass for ever having believed in such ideas. This kind of presentation gives the author a tremendous advantage over the reader, however, for the more timid reader may feel a sense of guilt after putting down this book. It is a clever book, and for the clever reader, rather than the too-earnest soul.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1942

ISBN: 0060652934

Page Count: 53

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 17, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1943

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THE TATTOOIST OF AUSCHWITZ

The writing is merely serviceable, and one can’t help but wish the author had found a way to present her material as...

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An unlikely love story set amid the horrors of a Nazi death camp.

Based on real people and events, this debut novel follows Lale Sokolov, a young Slovakian Jew sent to Auschwitz in 1942. There, he assumes the heinous task of tattooing incoming Jewish prisoners with the dehumanizing numbers their SS captors use to identify them. When the Tätowierer, as he is called, meets fellow prisoner Gita Furman, 17, he is immediately smitten. Eventually, the attraction becomes mutual. Lale proves himself an operator, at once cagey and courageous: As the Tätowierer, he is granted special privileges and manages to smuggle food to starving prisoners. Through female prisoners who catalog the belongings confiscated from fellow inmates, Lale gains access to jewels, which he trades to a pair of local villagers for chocolate, medicine, and other items. Meanwhile, despite overwhelming odds, Lale and Gita are able to meet privately from time to time and become lovers. In 1944, just ahead of the arrival of Russian troops, Lale and Gita separately leave the concentration camp and experience harrowingly close calls. Suffice it to say they both survive. To her credit, the author doesn’t flinch from describing the depravity of the SS in Auschwitz and the unimaginable suffering of their victims—no gauzy evasions here, as in Boy in the Striped Pajamas. She also manages to raise, if not really explore, some trickier issues—the guilt of those Jews, like the tattooist, who survived by doing the Nazis’ bidding, in a sense betraying their fellow Jews; and the complicity of those non-Jews, like the Slovaks in Lale’s hometown, who failed to come to the aid of their beleaguered countrymen.

The writing is merely serviceable, and one can’t help but wish the author had found a way to present her material as nonfiction. Still, this is a powerful, gut-wrenching tale that is hard to shake off.

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-279715-5

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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