Room for One More: A Mod­ern-Day Fairy Tale

Sheryl Pren­zlau; Adi Katz, illus.
  • Review
By – September 12, 2013
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

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.

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