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.
Room for One More: A Modern-Day Fairy Tale
A hilarious folk tale, rich in crazy storyline with subtle moral and empathetic characters, returns, tweaked, in modern garb. The funny story of the desperate man who seeks the rabbi’s counsel to solve his crowded home and the rabbi’s silly-turned-wise solution reappears as a “Modern-Day Fairy Tale” with pluses and minuses. On the plus side are outstanding rhyming quatrains, brilliant illustrations, a fast pace, and a spelled out moral conclusion. On the other side is the loss of the traditional prose folktale voice (despite the format of a story within a story narrated by an old woman) and the empowerment given listeners/readers to figure out the point on their own. This latest version cranks up the fun, cleverly adding bad smells to the family woes and the children not sleeping as they are counting the sheep. The illustrations reveal a rabbi fully serving his flock at simchas, life cycle events, study groups, and prayer. The poor man’s exasperated wife suffers and copes; his children relish the mess with glee. Father returns and returns to the rabbi until the solution from Pirke Avot arrives. Characters and readers learn to be content with their lot, a good thing with material possessions, questionable if we wish a spur to new ideas to serve tikun olam. Author Prenzlau does a wonderful job with the plot of this classic; illustrator Katz’s mobile art advances the story, showcasing distinctly Orthodox characters. If you want everything explained, this is the redo for you. If you want the reader to figure it out, there are at least five other versions available in Jewish libraries. For its fussing and fuming, energy and joy, smells and smiles, this modern revision of a deservedly popular classic is highly recommended for ages 6 – 10.
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