The Unfor­get­table Journey

Moshe Wein­berg
  • Review
By – August 20, 2012
In the ear­ly 1700’s, a Jew­ish man and his son are enslaved by pirates on their way to Alge­ria. The Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ty of Tunis is unable to ran­som them, so they are left to rely on their own luck and resource­ful­ness, both of which they pos­sess in astound­ing pro­por­tions. Reuven, the father, jumps over­board from the pirate ship and escapes, mas­querad­ing as a beg­gar in search of his son. Eleven-year-old Hil­lel is adopt­ed by a pow­er­ful Arab fam­i­ly, the Ibn Kasais, who have lost their own son and yearn for anoth­er. While Hil­lel remains a secret­ly obser­vant Jew and ingra­ti­ates him­self not only with his adop­tive par­ents but with the ruler of Tunis and his son, Ali Baba, Reuven search­es for a way to get him back. Each chap­ter ends as a cliffhang­er as the plot grows more and more fast-paced, more and more improb­a­ble. After some set­backs that endan­ger the Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ty, Hil­lel and his father man­age to save the day, reunite, remain friends with the for­mer­ly anti-Semit­ic Ibn Kasais, and live hap­pi­ly ever after. No attempt at lit­er­ary qual­i­ty is made by the author: the style is pedes­tri­an and incred­i­bly anachro­nis­tic, the char­ac­ters are wood­en, the plot is pre­dictable, and the res­o­lu­tion is absurd. The sto­ry reads as though it had been orig­i­nal­ly told in ad lib ser­i­al form, which appears to be the case from a com­ment by the author. Intend­ed for Ortho­dox boys ages 10 – 14, this is mar­gin­al­ly acceptable.
Lin­da R. Sil­ver is a spe­cial­ist in Jew­ish children’s lit­er­a­ture. She is edi­tor of the Asso­ci­a­tion of Jew­ish Libraries’ Jew­ish Val­ues­find­er, www​.ajl​jew​ish​val​ues​.org, and author of Best Jew­ish Books for Chil­dren and Teens: A JPS Guide (The Jew­ish Pub­li­ca­tion Soci­ety, 2010) and The Jew­ish Val­ues Find­er: A Guide to Val­ues in Jew­ish Children’s Lit­er­a­ture (Neal-Schu­man, 2008).

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