Delightful! A well-constructed folktale that proves the power of motivation and hard work, a value that the author learned from her immigrant grandmother who first told her this story.
Shlemazel (literally “unlucky”) has no prospects. The gift of a “lucky” spoon convinces him that he can dig up his luck. He never finds what he is looking for, but his efforts cause him to inadvertently plow a field, help the miller, and find a wife. “Is that not luck?” cries the neighbor who provided the spoon. “That is work, not luck,” replies Shlemazel, who admits that he now has all he needs to be happy — without any luck! The bright illustrations boast a flattened perspective and the blocky boldness of folk paintings. They exactly depict what is described in the text, but add another level of life and detail to the story too. The Jewish content may not be obvious to young readers. However, along with a smattering of Yiddish (defined in the glossary at the back), the story teaches Jewish values. The lucid Author’s Note explains that in the course of the story, Shlemazel develops a work ethic, begins to celebrate the Sabbath, and finds a good wife, becoming a “self-respecting and worthy individual through actions that bind him to his community and his heritage.” An excellent choice for Jewish folklore and storybook collections. Ages 5 – 10.