The Upside-Down Boy and the Israeli Prime Minister

Sher­ri Man­dell, Robert Dunn (Illus­tra­tor)

  • Review
By – May 18, 2021

The Upside Down Boy and the Israeli Prime Min­is­ter is an unusu­al book, filled with gen­tle lessons while telling a sto­ry sure to make a read­er smile.

Daniel lives in Israel. He is one of those admirable, won­der­ful kids who just has trou­ble sit­ting still; he wants to do things his own way and some­times that way includes dra­mat­ic phys­i­cal pos­es and inces­sant motion. His teacher and par­ents are under­stand­ing but try to con­vey the mes­sage that some­times bounc­ing around a room and stand­ing on one’s head are not appro­pri­ate to the time and place.

A class field trip to the Prime Minister’s office is planned and Daniel is encour­aged, remind­ed, and warned to behave prop­er­ly and to com­port him­self with dig­ni­ty while on the trip. He is asked to reflect glo­ry on his school, rather than embar­rass­ment or dis­com­fort. He tries hard to com­ply and suc­ceeds for a while — until the guide, an assis­tant to the prime min­is­ter, drops a coin. Daniel, in an effort to be polite and help­ful, attempts to retrieve it but then finds him­self stand­ing on his head.

The unflap­pable assis­tant leads the class to a framed pic­ture of Israel’s first Prime Min­is­ter, David Ben Guri­on, hang­ing on the wall. In the pic­ture, Ben Guri­on, a prac­ti­tion­er of yoga, is stand­ing on his head at the beach. The guide then flips into his own head­stand, assur­ing Daniel and the rest of the class that stand­ing on one’s head seems to be excel­lent train­ing for those who hope to some­day run for the office of prime min­is­ter. The suc­cess­ful trip is capped by a spe­cial treat of upside down cake!

The illus­tra­tions are filled with col­or and move­ment, as well as real­is­ti­cal­ly quirky facial expres­sions which reflect the text. The humor in the sto­ry shines through the illus­tra­tions while not eclips­ing the mes­sage that the abil­i­ty to see things dif­fer­ent­ly has value.

Israel is a place where look­ing at issues from unusu­al per­spec­tives is admired and encour­aged. The read­er empathizes with Daniel’s effort to restrain him­self, while cel­e­brat­ing the free­dom and cre­ativ­i­ty which is a hall­mark of Israeli soci­ety. This sto­ry, while both fun and fun­ny, reminds us all to be less hide­bound and rigid. Read­ers learn to under­stand one facet of Israeli soci­ety while they are hap­pi­ly amused and enter­tained. This sto­ry is rec­om­mend­ed for its light­heart­ed approach to Israeli his­to­ry and society.

Michal Hoschan­der Malen is the edi­tor of Jew­ish Book Coun­cil’s young adult and children’s book reviews. A for­mer librar­i­an, she has lec­tured on top­ics relat­ing to lit­er­a­cy, run book clubs, and loves to read aloud to her grandchildren.

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