The Hun­gry Clothes and Oth­er Jew­ish Folktales

Retold by Penin­nah Schram; Gian­ni DeCon­no, illus.
  • Review
By – February 13, 2012
To kick off its new Folk­tales Around the World series, Ster­ling turned to Penin­nah Schram, the Direc­tor of the Jew­ish Sto­ry­telling Cen­ter and win­ner of the Cir­cle of Excel­lence Award from the Nation­al Sto­ry­telling Net­work, to choose sto­ries that rep­re­sent the val­ues, faith, cul­ture, and tra­di­tions” of the Jew­ish peo­ple. The twen­ty-two tales, expert­ly select­ed, draw from a wide range of tra­di­tion­al Sephardic and Ashke­nazi lore. They include favorite fairy­tales, leg­ends and trick­ster tales with famil­iar char­ac­ters, such as Honi and Her­shele of Ostropol, plus some reimag­in­ings with Moroc­can set­tings and new pro­tag­o­nists. A wise woman replaces the boy Solomon and King David in prov­ing guilt by dis­cov­er­ing gold coins left behind in a pot of hon­ey. A Hakham replaces King Solomon as judge in How Much Is a Smell Worth?” In three love­ly tales not often found else­where in Eng­lish, the scratch in a dia­mond is trans­formed into a rose, a prince unknow­ing­ly car­ries news from a free bird that teach­es a caged bird how to escape, and a young man wins the con­test for lazi­est man in the king­dom. Short intro­duc­tions turn many of the tales into para­bles. With mes­sages laced through each sto­ry, this is more con­scious­ly a teach­ing col­lec­tion than Schram’s oth­er works. Thir­ty-two ele­gant, full-col­or illus­tra­tions rein­force its for­mal­i­ty. For adults to share with chil­dren, or ages 10 and up to read alone. With intro­duc­tion, glos­sary, and sources.

Read­ing Guide

Sharon Elswit, author of The Jew­ish Sto­ry Find­er and a school librar­i­an for forty years in NYC, 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