Riddles are the heart of this enjoyable retelling of a Jewish folktale. Young Rachel has been raised on riddles and is as clever as any boy, though her mother would prefer that she focus on learning to make kugel and setting a proper Shabbat table. Jacob, the baker’s son, doubts her ability to solve riddles as well as he does, so Rachel decides to teach him a lesson by stepping back when a distraught young woman named Miriam comes pleading for help. If Miriam doesn’t solve three riddles, her beloved will be forced to marry someone else. Jacob struggles with the riddles until he becomes flustered and finally turns to Rachel for the answers, remembering that true wisdom comes from working together. Although minimally sprinkled with old world phrasing, the text reads more like a picture book than a folktale. Appealing full-page illustrations in golden hues depict traditionally garbed villagers with expressive faces that bring the story to life. But the true appeal of this book is the riddles, including a full page of them at the end just for fun. Read with Raisel’s Riddle by Erica Silverman and entries from While Standing on One Foot by Nina Jaffe for a great introduction to Jewish riddle and puzzle stories. For ages 7 – 9.
Teri Markson has been a children’s librarian for over 18 years. She is currently the acting senior librarian at the Valley Plaza Branch Library in North Hollywood, CA.