Rabbi Jacob Ben Wolf Kranz, better known as the Dubno Maggid for his storytelling abilities, was born in Vilna in 1741 and died in 1804. Gadi Pollack presents 12 of the Dubno Maggid’s parables in this beautifully illustrated volume. Set in a graphic novel format, Once Upon a Tale serves as the perfect introduction to these life-long lessons. Pollack’s superb illustrations bring Mendel the tailor, Fishel the beggar, Reb Zalman the wealthy, Robert the rogue, and other characters vividly to life. These characters amusingly convey the morals of Jewish teachings that the Dubno Maggid distilled for his students. Each of the stories in the book is set apart by an illustrated title page. The stories themselves are only two pages in length, followed by a one-page explanation with references from the Torah and other writings. While the book was written with the observant reader in mind, readers from all backgrounds will be able to glean the messages in these parables.
There have been many graphic novels published recently with a Jewish focus, most for adult readers. Librarians seeking to build a collection for children and young adults should look for The Kids’ Cartoon Bible, by Chaya M. Burstein (The Jewish Publication Society, 2002) and The Queen of Persia, by Moshe Moscowitz (Shazak Productions, 2004), both of which offer mainstream readers lively (and sometimes bold) interpretations of classic stories. By using the graphic novel format, a format that is becoming increasingly popular and accepted in literature collections in libraries, Pollack’s book is sure to appeal to independent readers ages 10 and up.