Bed­time for Maziks

Yael Levy, Nabi­la Adani (Illus­tra­tor)

  • Review
By – May 30, 2022

Lov­ing par­ents have used any num­ber of col­or­ful names to des­ig­nate their out-of-con­trol chil­dren. In Yid­dish, one word for these adorable trou­ble­mak­ers is mazik. Yael Levy and Nabi­la Adani have spun an affec­tion­ate tale defin­ing these incor­ri­gi­ble crea­tures, pos­ing ques­tions about their activ­i­ties and depict­ing their hec­tic, and Jew­ish, dai­ly lives. From start to fin­ish, young read­ers and their care­givers will enjoy accom­pa­ny­ing these play­ing, snack-eat­ing, alef-bet learn­ing, and sh’ma-reciting kids through­out their busy day.

Actu­al­ly, these mild­ly destruc­tive imps are not exact­ly chil­dren; they have pink-and-green skin and tiny, non­threat­en­ing fangs and claws. They are an homage to the great Jew­ish children’s book author Mau­rice Sendak, whose jour­ney to the wild things ends with a reas­sur­ing trip home. Adani’s cov­er shows the small mon­sters with two books. One is a stan­dard alpha­bet sto­ry opened to D is for Drei­del,” con­jur­ing the joy of Hanukkah, while the oth­er is a vol­ume of Jew­ish folk­lore. It seems the maziks are acknowl­edg­ing their ori­gins in the rich leg­ends of Jew­ish tra­di­tion. But they live in the here-and-now, wak­ing up in bed­rooms lit­tered with toys, eat­ing a messy break­fast, and going to school where they fol­low all the rules,” if only briefly. Chil­dren will iden­ti­fy with their good-natured defi­ance, while par­ents will relate to the chaos of their mak­ing trou­ble, break­ing stuff.” Even the rel­a­tive­ly laid-back mom in jeans and a sweat­shirt pos­es with her hands on either side of her head, a uni­ver­sal ges­ture of frustration.

The Jew­ish dimen­sion of the sto­ry is unob­tru­sive­ly inte­grat­ed into the over­all theme: there is a shelf in the kitchen with Sab­bath can­dles and kosher salt; the class black­board shows the Hebrew alpha­bet; and their Fri­day evening table includes chal­lah, can­dles, and grape juice, the final item result­ing in a messy spill. These lim­it-push­ing kids and their obvi­ous­ly human par­ents are Jew­ish in a mat­ter-of-fact way, their reli­gious iden­ti­ty pro­vid­ing the mean­ing­ful rou­tines of each day. Levy fol­lows fac­tu­al descrip­tions of what the maziks do with ques­tions, invit­ing chil­dren to ver­i­fy the essen­tial real­ism of these myth­i­cal beings: Do they laugh until they drop? What do maziks do each day?”

Adani’s pic­tures are full of joy­ful and action-filled scenes. Her con­stant­ly smil­ing maziks make it clear that they mean no harm, and their impres­sive ener­gy lev­el cap­tures a part of child­hood that adults can only fond­ly remem­ber. These chil­dren nev­er stop their cre­ative dis­rup­tion, at least until it is time for the respite of sleep. The seam­less tran­si­tion from a wild pil­low fight to the dark peace of moon and stars will help to calm every­one even if those dreams that glide on star­lit thread” are sure to include the next day’s havoc.

Emi­ly Schnei­der writes about lit­er­a­ture, fem­i­nism, and cul­ture for TabletThe For­wardThe Horn Book, and oth­er pub­li­ca­tions, and writes about chil­dren’s books on her blog. She has a Ph.D. in Romance Lan­guages and Literatures.

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