This is Israel

Miroslav Sasek
  • Review
By – February 15, 2012
Sasek was a beloved Prague-born author and illus­tra­tor whose play­ful designs and wit­ty text pro­vid­ed chil­dren with the delights of the world and encour­aged visions of future trav­el. Those of us who grew up ador­ing this superb series of books about dif­fer­ent cities and coun­tries of the world can wax nos­tal­gic over their re-pub­li­ca­tion. Twen­ty-first cen­tu­ry chil­dren should be as enchant­ed with this series as the chil­dren of the 1960’s, even though the world has changed so dra­mat­i­cal­ly. These books are fac­sim­i­le edi­tions (includ­ing New York, Lon­don, Venice, and oth­ers) which the pub­lish­er notes are still time­ly and cur­rent in every way,” although the pub­lish­er has pro­vid­ed updates for mod­ern read­ers. These are list­ed at the end of the book on a page enti­tled, This is Israel…Today!”. Sur­pris­ing­ly, few updates are need­ed, and they have been not­ed by a small aster­isk in the text, such as after men­tion­ing the Man­del­baum Gate as a cross­ing point, or the Old City belong­ing to Jor­dan. The West­ern Wall is not men­tioned, as it clear­ly was not acces­si­ble to the author almost 50 years ago. There is no deny­ing the appeal of the tru­ly charm­ing illus­tra­tions and bril­liant design of these col­lectible edi­tions, and the deci­sion to repub­lish them was a great one. The ques­tion is whether read­ers will make sure to absorb the prop­er infor­ma­tion along with the orig­i­nal. Nos­tal­gia for a trav­el­ogue of the Israel of 1962 (def­i­nite­ly viewed through Chris­t­ian eyes — bib­li­cal pas­sages from both the Hebrew Bible and the New Tes­ta­ment are quot­ed, so it’s not for every­one) should pro­vide any adult with bit­ter­sweet mem­o­ries, while charm­ing chil­dren with the clever illus­tra­tions. Ages 4 – 8.
Lisa Sil­ver­man is direc­tor of Sinai Tem­ple’s Blu­men­thal Library in Los Ange­les and a for­mer day school librar­i­an. She is the for­mer chil­dren’s book review edi­tor of Jew­ish Book World.

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