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Chelm for the Holidays

Chelm for the Holidays
Sonja Wimmer Illustrated by
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Lerner Publishing Group

Limited ***

7.5 X 5.3 in
72 pg

JUVENILE FICTION / Religious / Jewish
JUVENILE FICTION / Humorous Stories
JUVENILE FICTION / Holidays & Celebrations / Other, Religious
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Topsy-turvy and clever Jewish holiday stories for middle grade readers, about the town of Chelm, the proverbial village of fools,


"Hannukah is just one of 10 Jewish occasions that get the comic treatment in 'Chelm for the Holidays' (Kar-Ben, 68 pages, $15.99), a collection of new and old tall tales by Valerie Estelle Frankel. Set in Chelm, the 'village of fools' of Eastern European Jewish tradition, the stories feature oafs and blockheads with names such as Uri the Unwise, Fishel the Foolish, and Simon the Simpleminded. On the eve of Passover, for instance, some of these fellows get the idea that they can’t possibly make the perforated, unleavened bread known as matzoh without buying a supply of holes. 'Could we use bagel holes?' wonders Leib the Lackwit. 'Of course not!' the Elders thunder. 'Too large.' Fortunately, a poor couple’s empty flour sack supplies the missing ingredient in this slim volume nicely suited for short holiday read-alouds." — Wall Street JournalNewspaper

"The book that belies the description of this post. All right, fine, it’s not a picture book but a collection of short tales, but I don’t care. I had to include it. It is, you see, a rather clever idea for a book, if I do say so myself. Ten different Jewish holidays are elegantly paired with ten different Chelm tales of utter foolishness. If you know me then you know I like a good fool tale. The more foolish the better! I wish there was a little more supplemental explanation here of whether or not Frankel made these up or based them off of existing tales. They sure didn’t sound familiar to me (I particularly liked the one about skating in the barn with soap). A lot of fun." — School Library Journal OnlineJournal

"'When the angels were distributing silliness throughout the world,' Frankel writes, 'their bowl tipped, spilling all the silliness into one town—Chelm.' But as these 10 Jewish holiday–themed stories show, silliness never gets in the way of the Chelmites fulfilling their festive duties. Frankel doesn't always have the firmest narrative hand, but two stories successfully combine the Chelmites' goofy logic with endearing evocations of shtetl life. A tale for Shabbat, 'The Disappearing Challah,' finds the town miser attempting to bribe God to get into heaven and inadvertently feeding a poor man and his wife for 10 years. In 'The Oiliest Miracle,' the Chelmites discover they have no oil left for the town's menorah (they're so despondent they almost stop eating); the answer, of course, is stuffing greasy latkes into the eight branches of the candelabra and igniting them."—Publishers WeeklyJournal

"Chelm is a real Polish town in Poland, but more importantly, it is a mythical place where some very silly things happen. This collection includes stories about 10 Jewish festivals, including the weekly Shabbat. Some are adaptations of Jewish folktales, and some are original, but all highlight both the town's citizenry and its elders, a small group of men even more foolish than the people they lead. The stories follow the Jewish year, starting with Rosh Hashanah. Some themes are quite recognizable. 'It Will Get Better,' a story set on Lag Ba'Omer, is a variant of the popular 'It Could Always Be Worse,' memorably adapted by Margot Zemach. In it, the holiday picnic, bonfire, and archery tournament are forced into a barn because of rain. The animals smell and eat all the food. The barn almost burns down, but the villagers have pulled some boards out of the roof to let the sun shine in on their picnic—but remember, it's raining. The stories are short and accessible, and they will work well as read-alouds. Children can also enjoy the whole book at once, laughing to themselves about the names alone: There's Fishel the Foolish and Uri the Unwise, among others. The book assumes an audience already familiar with Jewish customs and traditions—or one willing just to laugh without understanding everything—as there is no additional contextual material.Humorous stories for Jewish holidays lighten up the year. (Short stories. 6-9)"―Kirkus ReviewsJournal

Author Bio

Valerie Estelle Frankel is the author of more than fifty books. She has taught children of all ages and is a former San Jose State University professor. She enjoys dancing, acting and creating costumes. She lives in California.
Sonja Wimmer loves painting pictures and telling stories. After studying and working some years as a designer in her hometown Munich and Brussels, she decided to pack her suitcase and move to Barcelona to study Illustration at the "Llotja" Arts and Crafts School. Since then she lives between brushes and all kinds of wonderful tales, working as freelance illustrator for publishing houses and other clients around the world.