A Mov­ing Tale

Gadi Pol­lack
  • Review
By – July 9, 2012
Using var­i­ous aspects of train trav­el as a metaphor for life, Gadi Pol­lack presents para­bles from Jew­ish sources to teach Jew­ish chil­dren about prop­er con­duct. The slim plot is that of a poor man who has always dreamed of rid­ing on a train. He saves and scrapes to earn enough for a tick­et, final­ly in his igno­rance pay­ing enough for a tick­et in the first-class com­part­ment, but board­ing the third-class car. He sees peo­ple occa­sion­al­ly at their best, more often at their worst, on this train jour­ney. Most of the two-page spreads fea­ture text box­es with teach­ings from one of the Rab­bis (most­ly the Chafetz Chaim, but also includ­ing Rab­bi Yis­rael Salanter, and Rab­bi Chaim Brisker, among oth­ers). The texts fre­quent­ly have only a ten­u­ous con­nec­tion to the scene in the illus­tra­tion, and chil­dren may find the char­ac­ters’ telegraphed con­ver­sa­tions and the tra­di­tion­al texts con­fus­ing. While some of the lessons are good ones for chil­dren to learn, includ­ing the impor­tance of hav­ing spir­i­tu­al goals rather than mate­r­i­al ones, the impor­tance of set­ting man­age­able goals, and the impor­tance of giv­ing tzedakah, oth­ers may be beyond them (being patient when reach­ing out to unaf­fil­i­at­ed Jews, for exam­ple). The char­ac­ters that peo­ple the pages are stereo­typ­i­cal­ly Jew­ish-look­ing peas­ants, for the most part, and are all male. A glos­sary defines the many Hebrew, Yid­dish, and Russ­ian words and expres­sions used through­out. As the intro­duc­tion explains, para­bles are fre­quent­ly an excel­lent teach­ing device; how­ev­er, if the stu­dent can’t draw a con­nec­tion between the para­ble and his/​her life, the learn­ing oppor­tu­ni­ty is lost. Ages 9 – 12.
Mar­ci Lavine Bloch earned her MLS from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Mary­land, a BA from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Penn­syl­va­nia and an MA in Eng­lish Lit­er­a­ture from Ford­ham Uni­ver­si­ty. She has worked in syn­a­gogue and day school libraries and is cur­rent­ly fin­ish­ing her term on the Syd­ney Tay­lor Book Award Committee.

Discussion Questions