The Bare­foot Book of Jew­ish Tales

Shoshan­na Boyd Gelfand; Aman­da Hall, illus.; Debra Mess­ing, narrator
  • Review
By – February 17, 2014

Thought­ful­ly cho­sen and cheer­ful­ly retold, this gath­er­ing of eight Jew­ish sto­ries is sure to delight lis­ten­ers and read­ers. Rab­bi Boyd Gelfand offers a fresh take on some old favorites to share the beau­ty and humor in Jew­ish cul­ture and ex­plain moral val­ues. Here is a smart daugh­ter who not only answers all of the king’s rid­dles but also has com­pas­sion for oth­ers. Here is a man who is baf­fled by deci­sions the prophet Eli­jah makes about which peo­ple he rewards on their jour­neys and an illit­er­ate thir­teen year old who cuts paper let­ters that mirac­u­lous­ly form them­selves into the Yom Kip­pur prayers he can­not recite plus five more classics. 

Cast­ing three tra­di­tion­al­ly male protago­nists as female feels unforced in Chal­lah in the Ark” where a bak­er thinks God has been eat­ing her bread for years, nev­er know­ing that those loaves have giv­en sus­te­nance to a hun­gry syn­a­gogue work­er; in Heav­en and Hell” where a gen­er­ous woman is shown the dif­fer­ence between peo­ple who think to give to each oth­er and those who do not; and in The Per­fect Mis­take” where an arti­san teach­es the king a new way to appre­ci­ate his cracked diamond.

Hall’s pas­tel hues warm­ly fill full pages and there are spot illus­tra­tions with scenes and char­ac­ters from the sto­ries in water­col­or, chalk, col­ored pen­cil, and dig­i­tal layering.

Messing’s voice on the record­ings is sweet and clear and the record­ings include all the stories.

Both the book and the accom­pa­ny­ing CDs have been pro­duced with care. This charm­ing folk­tale col­lec­tion proud­ly speaks to Jew­ish chil­dren ages sev­en and up and pro­vides a won­der­ful introduc­tion to Jew­ish folk­lore for gen­er­al audi­ences, as well. The book includes a glos­sary, sources, and 2 CDs.

Sharon Elswit, author of The Jew­ish Sto­ry Find­er, now resides in San Fran­cis­co, where she shares tales aloud in a local JCC preschool and vol­un­teers with 826 Valen­cia to help stu­dents write their own sto­ries and poems.

Discussion Questions