The Gold­en Dreydl

Ellen Kush­n­er; Ilene Winn-Led­er­er, illus.
  • Review
By – November 14, 2011

A fan­ta­sy for younger chap­ter-book read­ers, this take­off of The Nut­crack­er is a Jew­ish-themed adven­ture into the mag­i­cal world of King Solomon and the Queen of She­ba. Sara’s mys­te­ri­ous Tante Miri­am makes a sur­prise appear­ance at her family’s Chanukah din­ner. Miri­am has unusu­al gifts for all the chil­dren, but offers a huge gold­en drey­dl to Sara that dis­ap­points her. After a tus­sle over the drey­dl breaks the TV screen, Sara is held respon­si­ble, and the drey­dl, who has tak­en her real form of an enchant­ed princess, guides Sara through the bro­ken tele­vi­sion set and into a world of fantasy. 

The princess turns out to be the daugh­ter of the king and queen and she is prompt­ly kid­napped by a fly­ing horde of demons and their king, Ashmedai (demon king of Tal­mu­dic leg­end and pur­port­ed adver­sary of Solomon). A Fool comes to Sara’s aid, lis­tens to her sto­ry, and they find suf­fi­cient com­mon bonds, includ­ing an affin­i­ty for solv­ing rid­dles, to embark on a mis­sion to res­cue the princess/​dreydl from the demons’ clutch­es. After some rous­ing adven­tures, the res­cuers suc­ceed in enter­ing the demon king’s lair, and find the princess and many oth­er cap­tives spin­ning like drey­dls, help­less to stop. The demons, too, are rid­dlers, and so it’s a good thing that Sara and The Fool are tal­ent­ed puz­zle­solvers. The con­clu­sion is sat­is­fy­ing, as Sara returns home with lessons learned, the TV fixed, and the real­iza­tion that bor­ing old Chanukah par­ties can be sig­nif­i­cant­ly more fun. The author, an estab­lished award-win­ning fan­ta­sy writer for teens and adults, does an admirable job of com­bin­ing Jew­ish folk­lore and hol­i­day tra­di­tions with an appeal­ing fan­ta­sy sto­ry for young read­ers. The delight­ful black and white line draw­ings that are sprin­kled through­out the text pro­vide fur­ther entry into the mag­i­cal world that Kush­n­er has cre­at­ed. A use­ful glos­sary of Jew­ish terms is includ­ed. For ages 8 – 10

Steve Sil­ver­man has an M.A. in Spe­cial Edu­ca­tion and has taught ele­men­tary school for more than twen­ty-five years.

Discussion Questions