The Mat­zo Ball Boy

Lisa Shul­man; Rosanne Litzinger, illus.
  • Review
By – August 6, 2012
In this uno­rig­i­nal retelling of the nurs­ery tale of the gin­ger bread man, Bubbe’s mat­zo ball boy jumps out of the pot and runs away just before Passover, shout­ing Run, run, as fast as you can, you can’t catch me, I’m the mat­zo ball man!” He runs away from the tai­lor, the vil­lage gos­sip, and the rab­bi. And, while he man­ages to out­wit the fox, he accepts an invi­ta­tion for the Passover Seder from a poor man and his wife and ends up right back where he came from — in a hot pot of mat­zo ball soup. The illus­tra­tions are bright and attrac­tive but it is unfor­tu­nate that the illus­tra­tor did not try to match the text more accu­rate­ly. Shul­man clev­er­ly describes the mat­zo ball boy with a car­rot-slice nose, a curv­ing cel­ery mouth, and pep­per­corn eyes and but­tons,” but Litzinger omits these details and depicts him with a tuft of hair, human-like eyes, a round red nose, and a black-lined mouth with rosy cheeks. Yid­dish words like schmaltz, schnei­der, yen­ta, schlemiel, and boy­chik are sprin­kled into the text, but their inclu­sion is awk­ward and forced despite the glos­sary at the end of the book. Matzah Man by Nao­mi How­land (Clar­i­on, 2002) and The Run­away Latkes by Leslie Kim­mel­man (Albert Whit­man, 2000) are more cre­ative Jew­ish adap­ta­tions of this famil­iar sto­ry. Rec­om­mend­ed as an addi­tion­al pur­chase for libraries and schools serv­ing preschool­ers.

Read­ing Guide

Rachel Kamin has been a syn­a­gogue librar­i­an and Jew­ish edu­ca­tor for over twen­ty-five years and has worked at North Sub­ur­ban Syn­a­gogue Beth El in High­land Park, IL since 2008, cur­rent­ly serv­ing as the Direc­tor of Life­long Learn­ing. A past chair of the Syd­ney Tay­lor Book Award Com­mit­tee and past edi­tor of Book Reviews for Chil­dren & Teens for the Asso­ci­a­tion of Jew­ish Libraries News & Reviews, her arti­cles and book reviews appear in numer­ous pub­li­ca­tions. She has been a mem­ber of the Amer­i­can Library Association’s Sophie Brody Book Award Com­mit­tee since 2021.

Discussion Questions