The title word “Painted” defines the uniqueness of this father-daughter collaboration, recalling Jewish village life between the World Wars. Mayer immigrated to Toronto in 1934, age 14. With gentle appeal, the meticulous, straightforward remembrances of Mayer July (his birth month) have been polished and cadenced by his eminent scholar-folklorist daughter. She encouraged his art (over 200 illustrations) which evoke not only his village, but portrayals of generations of shtetl Jews, as in their lifetimes few changes occurred.
Mayer’s sharp eye gives readers diagrams and instructions on making useful items with minimal materials — a willow shofar, a book’s binding, a tin whistle, a dreydl. Sparing and forgetting no detail, he recalls physical abuse by khayder teachers, sneaky boys’ mayhem, along with unchanging routines of washing day, sexual knowledge, holiday observances, sanitation, caring family and neighbors, and limited relations with the Polish community (in a 2/3 ratio) of Apt/Opatow.
To Kirshenblatt, the Shoah is secondhand: “…the Germans took the whole family out…they lashed my grandmother to a tree and, before her very eyes, they shot her whole family. Then they shot her.” For years, he couldn’t paint this story told to him. Well-printed, this book has multi-age appeal — imagine Huckleberry Finn illustrated by Grandma Moses. Acknowledgements, afterword, illustrations, index, notes.