Feivel’s Fly­ing Horses

Hei­di Smith Hyde; Johan­na van der Steere, illus.
  • Review
By – September 9, 2011
Jew­ish wood­carvers star in this sweet tale of late 19th cen­tu­ry immi­grants. Feiv­el, third gen­er­a­tion wood artist, jour­neys to New York for a bet­ter life with the clichéd $5.00. He must leave behind his fam­i­ly, a wife and four chil­dren, until he saves mon­ey for their pas­sage. Despite work­ing from the minute he arrives on the Low­er East Side, sav­ing takes years. Feiv­el miss­es his fam­i­ly ter­ri­bly and sore­ly regrets not see­ing his chil­dren grow up. Feiv­el toils, reduced from exalt­ed syn­a­gogue Torah ark carv­ings to mak­ing fur­ni­ture, until a cousin treats him to Coney Island. Astound­ed by the mag­nif­i­cent carousel and yearn­ing for his artis­tic past, he spies a job open­ing for an expe­ri­enced wood carv­er. Feiv­el designs and carves hors­es that cap­ture the far­away fam­i­ly mem­bers he pines for. His Jew­ish iden­ti­ty is obvi­ous when he sings Yid­dish love songs at work and bless­ings in the syn­a­gogue. Feiv­el refus­es to ride the fin­ished carousel until his fam­i­ly rides with him. They arrive and hap­pi­ly mount their splen­did, spe­cial hors­es. Feivel’s life, like his carousel, becomes a joy­ous, com­plete cir­cle. The text gen­tly deliv­ers the pain of sep­a­ra­tion faced by myr­i­ad immi­grants while smart­ly teach­ing about tal­ent­ed Jew­ish arti­sans and their rich con­tri­bu­tion to Amer­i­can cul­ture. The pic­ture book’s art par­al­lels the text in plot and emo­tion. Homey scenes in soft water­col­or on two-page spreads deliv­er the mag­i­cal milieu of Coney Island and its deter­mined artist, well-fed, neat and (please note) blonde, whose sad­ness wells from sep­a­ra­tion, not the grime of a grind­ing ghet­to. For ages 5 – 8.

Ellen G. Cole, a retired librar­i­an of the Levine Library of Tem­ple Isa­iah in Los Ange­les, is a past judge of the Syd­ney Tay­lor Book Awards and a past chair­per­son of that com­mit­tee. She is a co-author of the AJL guide, Excel­lence in Jew­ish Children’s Lit­er­a­ture. Ellen is the recip­i­ent of two major awards for con­tri­bu­tion to Juda­ic Librar­i­an­ship, the Fan­ny Gold­stein Mer­it Award from the Asso­ci­a­tion of Jew­ish Libraries and the Dorothy Schroed­er Award from the Asso­ci­a­tion of Jew­ish Libraries of South­ern Cal­i­for­nia. She is on the board of AJLSC.

Discussion Questions