Such a Library!
A Yiddish Folktale
by Jill Ross Nadler
illustrated by Esther van den Berg
An old Jewish folktale in a modern-day library... with a magical librarian!
hardcover • picture book • 40 pages • 10" by 8"
$18.95 US • ISBN 978-1951365028
Stevie craves quiet until he meets Miss Understood, a magical librarian whose books come to life and wreak havoc, in this modern-day twist on an old Yiddish folktale.
Have you ever seen a rabbi on a flying trapeze?
Well, look closely, and you will now!
Such a Library! illustrations Copyright Esther van den Berg
Nadler, making her picture book debut, and van den Berg (Good Night and Sleep Tight) base their comic fantasy on a classic Yiddish folktale known as “It Could Always Be Worse.” The library is supposed to be Stevie’s quiet refuge from a home filled with “three brothers, two sisters, and a baby,” but he can’t seem to find any peace. “Pages are turning, keys are tapping, and the storyteller is once upon a timing,” he complains to Miss Understood, the librarian. “It’s like a party in here.” Her response is nothing short of extraordinary: she opens a book, welcoming balloons and party fixings. When Stevie then likens the library to a zoo and a circus, things really get crazy. As the good-natured, buoyant cartoons chronicle a cumulative comic cacophony with subtle nods to the story’s shtetl origins, the text fills up with a growing list of onomatopoeia—those reading aloud will be called on to make sounds ranging from book pages turning (“whoosh, swoosh”) to the sound of a clown car horn (“ah-ooo-gah”). Stevie, for his part, learns two important lessons: he didn’t know how good he had it, and librarians are indeed magic.
A Yiddish folktale about a noisy house is reimagined for a new generation in this story, set in a library, about a young patron who’s reminded by the enthusiastic librarian, Miss Understood, to appreciate what he has, because circumstances could always be worse. Children will laugh out loud at the story’s escalating antics, while those familiar with the original will appreciate the faithful interpretation and retention of Jewish customs, not to mention the charm of the illustrations.
Repetition, action verbs, and onomatopoeia make this a fun read-aloud.
School Library Journal
Textured, highly detailed digital illustrations perfectly capture the joy and chaos of the story and also include hints from the original folktale. An author’s note connects the story to Jewish values and teachings, but regardless of one’s faith, this imaginative retelling is an absolute delight.
The Jewish Standard
Children will love all the chaotic scenes that unfold, with Nadler’s playful text and Van Den Berg’s fun-filled, candy-colored illustrations.
AJL News & Reviews
...This new, magical story arrives with a great vocabulary, colorful, active, identifying verbs, spot on adjectives, and photographic descriptions. Magic fills the pages as people, animals and things pop from Miss Understood’s book. Frenetic illustrations in primary colors sweep the action along. At the close, a detailed author’s note explaining the “Jewishness of the original folktale” is welcome and informative, bringing the shtetl message to a new generation draped in modern dress. Young readers will enjoy a well done updating of a delicious part of the Yiddish canon.
The Sydney Taylor Shmooze
This is a charming story and the fact that the new, noisy inhabitants come to life from a book is a particularly nice touch for a story set in a library. The original folktale is included in the front matter, which I appreciated.