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.