Joseph and the Sab­bath Fish

Eric A. Kim­mel; Mar­ti­na Pelu­so, illus.
  • Review
By – November 7, 2011
Kim­mel bring sat­is­fy­ing­ly warm detail to a well-known folk­tale, in an ele­gant pic­ture book set long ago on the shores of Galilee. Joseph of Tiberius loves to cel­e­brate the Sab­bath by select­ing choice ingre­di­ents when prepar­ing food and invit­ing all to share din­ner with him. When his neigh­bor, Judah, scoffs that Joseph needs to be more selec­tive, Joseph insists that the hon­or he gives to the Sab­bath by keep­ing his house open is returned a thou­sand­fold.” When Joseph’s for­tunes turn and he becomes poor, those he has helped now share in pro­vid­ing food so that the Sab­bath table is still filled with peo­ple. Judah, how­ev­er, dreams that Joseph is in pos­ses­sion of his wealth and he sells all that he owns, buys a ruby and sets sail. A storm whips the cap with the jew­el from Judah’s head and flings it into the sea. The ruby reap­pears inside a large fish, which Joseph’s wife is prepar­ing, chang­ing Joseph for­tunes once again. When Judah returns, now poor­er, he turns down Joseph’s offer to give him the ruby’s val­ue. He would rather have Joseph’s friend­ship and the oppor­tu­ni­ty to share the Sab­bath with him. Peluso’s two-page spreads fill pages to the edge, intense with jew­el pas­tel and ink detail, blues and pur­ples and the green of the fish. She draws sol­id, state­ly fig­ures with styl­ized beards and a mys­te­ri­ous spark of ani­ma­tion in their eyes. It is true team­work. Is the woman who lat­er shows up as Joseph’s wife one of the neigh­bors whom Joseph wel­comed when he was no longer wealthy? Like Joseph, Kim­mel has tak­en care to hon­or tra­di­tion while adding his own inim­itable sto­ry­telling touch­es. Rec­om­mend­ed for ages 5 to 8.

Read­ing Guide

Sharon Elswit, author of The Jew­ish Sto­ry Find­er and a school librar­i­an for forty years in NYC, now resides in San Fran­cis­co, where she shares tales aloud in a local JCC preschool and vol­un­teers with 826 Valen­cia to help stu­dents write their own sto­ries and poems.

Discussion Questions