The Broth­ers Schlemiel

Mark Binder; Zevi Blum, illus.
  • Review
By – January 16, 2012
In The Broth­ers Schlemiel, Mark Binder tries to cap­ture the com­mu­ni­ty of Chelm in all its inno­cence, fool­ish­ness, and humor. In this work of fic­tion, his­to­ry lives in the foot­notes,” he declares in his author’s note. When his­to­ry gets in the way of the sto­ry, it is eas­i­ly mod­i­fied. So it’s clear from the start that there is noth­ing fac­tu­al about this book, which traces the lives of the Schlemiel fam­i­ly and the com­mu­ni­ty that sur­rounds them. Divid­ed into forty-five chap­ters that were orig­i­nal­ly seri­al­ized in var­i­ous Jew­ish news­pa­pers in North Amer­i­ca, the book’s indi­vid­ual chap­ters work well on their own, mak­ing this a good bed­time read for adults and young read­ers. But it’s the adults who will real­ly get the humor writ­ten between the lines. Only in Chelm could a father get so lost going to fetch the mid­wife that he miss­es the birth of his first child,” Binder writes, pok­ing con­sis­tent fun at the antics and idio­cy of those who call Chelm home. It seems that every­one in the town is in slow mode, so the mix-ups are many and the poten­tial for laugh­ter abun­dant. Zevi Blum adds col­or­ful car­i­ca­tures to the pages that help make this lengthy book a light-heart­ed, whim­si­cal read.
Lau­ren Kramer is a Van­cou­ver-based jour­nal­ist, wife, and moth­er with a life­long pas­sion for lit­er­a­ture. Born in Cape Town, South Africa, she has won awards for her writ­ing and report­ed from many cor­ners of the world. Read more of her work at www​.lau​renkramer​.net.

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