This sweet picture book tells the typical immigrant story through the experience of Mendel, a klezmer musician. In the old country, Mendel plays his accordion in a klezmer band, making people laugh with his happy music and cry with his sad music. But when things get bad in the old country, Mendel takes his accordion and boards a ship for America. On the long ocean journey, Mendel joins some other musicians to entertain the passengers, who laugh and cry to the music. In New York the musicians all get day jobs, but form a klezmer band to play music in the evenings and on weekends. Mendel gets married, has children and grandchildren. Styles in music change, and Mendel’s accordion is put away. Years later, Mendel’s great-grandson Samuel finds the accordion in the attic. It is worn and dusty and in need of repair, but Samuel has it repaired, learns to play and starts a new klezmer band. This lovely little story can be read aloud as a simple tale or read for information about this special kind of music. Johanna Van Der Sterre’s folksy, watercolor illustrations beautifully describe the feelings and movement of the story. The last page of the book offers interesting historical facts about klezmer music and about the accordion. For ages 5 – 8.
Diane Levin Rauschwerger is librarian for Congregation Beth Am, Los Altos Hills, CA, and has worked as a children’s librarian for the Sunnyvale Public Library. She is the author of a series of children’s picture books, including Dinosaur on Hanukkah, Dinosaur on Passover, and Dinosaur on Shabbat, published by Kar-Ben Publishing.