Cleanliness, schmenliness, let the kids have fun! That’s the wonderfully unexpected attitude of Mama (and Papa) Schmutzy, whose family name says it all in this charming debut. From Sunday until Friday morning, seemingly unflappable Mama stands by while her children wreak creative havoc, trailing home bits of Feldman’s malodorous swamp, whipping up mud pies in the kitchen, redecorating their clothes and walls with foodstuffs, and indulging in a bit of scientific experimentation by watering their father’s bald head to see if hair will grow. When the children turn the bathroom sink into a frog habitat, “It was Mama who plugged the drain.” But come Friday, all bets are off as Mama corals the kids and sets them to work cleaning up for Shabbos. “Oy! Look at this dirt! You’re FARSHTUNKEN, all of you!” Utilizing the same energy and enthusiasm with which they’ve attacked their weekday projects, the family gets busy undoing a week’s worth of dirt and mess. Alliteration makes the chores sound like fun. “They unstuck and unstunk and unswamped and unpainted…They soaped and scoured and showered.” By Friday night, everything and everyone is clean and the family sits down together for Shabbos dinner, followed by a Saturday morning walk to synagogue. Combining watercolor, acrylic, pencil and ink, the appealing illustrations perfectly complement the text, with busy two-page spreads that manage to seem both hectic and friendly at the same time. So much is going on it’s a wonder that Mama doesn’t lose patience with her energetic brood, but what’s beautifully conveyed here is that this is a loving family with clear priorities who choose to spend their time creating, exploring, experimenting, playing, and praying together. A delightful choice for ages 3 – 6.
The Schmutzy Family
Teri Markson has been a children’s librarian for over 18 years. She is currently the acting senior librarian at the Valley Plaza Branch Library in North Hollywood, CA.
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