Jewish Folktales
and
Talmudic Stories

(Page 4)



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Other Pages of Interest:
Jewish Folktales and Talmudic Stories for Children (Page 1) (Page 2) (Page 3) (Page 4) (Page 5) (Page 6) (Page 7)


Easy Reader and Picture Books:
Jewish Children's Books (General) | Jewish Board Books | Biblical Stories for Children | Jewish Holiday Books | Jewish Family Cookbooks | Jewish Folktales and Talmudic Stories for Children (Page 1) (Page 2) (Page 3) (Page 4) (Page 5) (Page 6) (Page 7) | Jewish Life Books (Mitzvot, Keeping Kosher, etc.) | Jewish Life Cycle Books | Family Haggadahs | Children's Prayerbooks | Introductory Hebrew Books | Jewish History and Historical Fiction Picture Books | Israel Books

Middle School and YA Books:
Bar Mitzvah Books | Jewish Fiction | Historical Fiction | Torah Study | Prayer and Jewish Life Books | Jewish Holidays | Jewish Biographies | Jewish History Books | Holocaust Books for Teens | Israel Books

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As Big As an Egg :
A Story About Giving

By Rochel Sandman
God's messengers take mysterious forms. The story takes place in Russia during World War II when food was scarce. After standing on a long line following a hard day of work to obtain his ration of bread, Chaim is stopped by Bubbe Hinda who is collecting donations of bits of bread for poor people. Chaim breaks off a piece of bread as big as an egg and drops it into the sack. Unwilling to contribute again, he avoids Bubbe Hinda and keeps the whole loaf of bread, securing it after dinner and covering all the mouse holds to protect it from mice. But for three mornings he finds a piece missing as big as an egg and spies a mouse's tail disappearing. Finally, he understands and donates thereafter, as big as two eggs, after which the mouse runs out of the house and his bread is no longer robbed. This is an appealing well-told story that reads like a folk tale although it is based on a true story. It has two child-pleasing repetitive refrains: a Yiddish blessing and the as big as an egg, and well composed, drawn and painted evocative illustrations.

Description from AJL Newsletter

The Story Tree: Tales to Read Aloud

By Hugh Lupton
This delightful collection of tales from around the world includes favorites like "The Three Billy Goats Gruff" (Norwegian) as well as less familiar stories such as "The Blue Coat" (Jewish) and "The Sweetest Song" (African-American). Hugh Lupton's engaging narrative quickly draws young readers into each story, while Sophie Fatus's quirky illustrations will have children laughing in their seats, ensuring hours of entertainment.

Description from Publisher


This collection of stories from around the world includes English, African-American, Indian, Russian, German, and Norweigan tales. The Jewish narrative, "The Blue Coat" is based on the Yiddish story Joseph Had a Little Overcoat. In this story, a little boy needs a coat, so his mother buys some blue fabric and makes it for him. After a while, the coat becomes worn, so his mother reworks the coat into a waistcoatt. This happens over and over, until eventually, she reworks it into a button. The theme of resourcefulness is clearly illustrated throughout the story. The book's whimsical illustrations and creative layout enhance all the stories. I was a bit confused when the first line of each story is repeated twice (Was it a typographical error or done intentionally). The protagonist of the Jewish story is named "Tom", which took away from some of its authenticity. All in all, however, this is a good collection to show different tales throughout the world.

Lori's Description

Why the Moon Only Glows

By Dina Rosenfeld
This Midrash, retold for very young children, features two small children, Leah and Dov. The children ask their abba (father) to retell the story why the sun shines so brightly and the moon can only glow. The retold Midrash is rhymed which makes it more attractive to children and the illustrations add immeasurably to the story line. As the author suggests, a lesson can also be taught from the story, namely, that one should be satisfied with whatever he gets and not begrudge the good fortune of others. The book is charming and delightful and can be enjoyed by youngsters from preschool age up.

Description from Jewish World News

The Shadow of a Flying Bird :
A Legend from the Kurdistani Jews

By Mordicai Gerstein
A moving fable that incorporates the Jewish concept of struggling with God.

Moses has lived his allotted time, but he is not yet ready to die, despite God's call. Although he eloquently pleads for more time--"Turn me into a tiny butterfly, only let me live". God refuses to extend his life, sending the archangels to fetch Moses' soul, but they are too sorrowful to perform the task; only the angel of death takes on the assignment with relish, but Moses smites him. So the Lord Himself descends to Earth to take Moses' soul with a kiss; yet afterward, He experiences almost unbearable sadness. He has lived up to His own rules, but He has lost the human closest to Him. The Chagall-like paintings, featuring cabalistic symbolism and heavenly colors, are full of magic. Younger children probably will not understand either the story or the art in a conventional manner, but they will intuit the themes of love, loss, and humanity's mysterious relationship with God. The best audience for this, however, may be older children who will be able to talk about many of the poignant issues the story raises.

Description from Booklist

Mendel Rosenbusch:
Tales for Jewish Children

By Ilse Weber
These Czech folktales are the work of a gifted writer who perished at Auschwitz. The title character, a good and wise man, is granted the power by the Almighty to become invisible at will. He uses his talent to help neighbors who are faced with crises and problems. Mendel is especially interested in the poor and children.

Despite the supernatural element, Weber's tales paint a knowing portrait of small-town pre-Holocaust Jewish life in Central Europe. Her characters are multidimensional, interesting, and unpredictable. Their strengths and weaknesses mirror human nature. Her plots are original and filled with humor. The collection is imbued with the traditional Jewish beliefs that people can change for the better, and that doing the right thing for the wrong reason can lead to a more positive motivation. Moral lessons are subtle.

An afterword by translator Hans Fisher describes how these tales were rediscovered and made available to English-speaking children. The author's fate and the fate of the communities about which she wrote lend poignancy to this excellent collection. The cover illustration of an old-fashioned-looking Mendel could deter readers.

Description from School Library Journal

The Magic Apple

By Corinne Demas
In this Road to Reading entry, Demas offers a clever version of a mitzvah story from the Jewish tradition. Three sisters, Ella, Bella, and Stella, return from their travels with, respectively, a magic spyglass, a magic horse, and a magic apple. The spyglass and horse bring the three to a dying prince's bedside; then slices of the apple revive him, earning his hand and half the kingdom for one sister--but which? Natchev garbs his figures in colorful eighteenth-century dress and follows Demas' lead in keeping the sisters friends rather than competitors; when the prince makes his choice, the other two happily accede, and the stage is set for an apple-pie wedding feast. The text runs to seven or fewer words per line, with an only slightly denser note on the tale's type and source appended. A natural next step for young fans of Alvin Schwartz's easy-reader collections.

Description from Booklist

Cartons in the Air and Other Stories

By Shaindel Weinbach
Delightful true tales from around the globe and through the centuries retold by Shaindel Weinbach, beautifully illustrated by Yosef Dershowitz.

Description from Publisher

The Merchant of Groski:
And Other Tales My Great-Great- Grandfather Might Tell About Life in a Ghetto of Russia in the Time of the Czars

By Herman I. Kantor
27 short stories are presented as the fictionalized experiences of Kantor's actual great-great grandfather Shmul, a resident of the small shtetl of Orsha in central Russia, first as a young newspaper "gopher," then as the rabbi of his ghetto. The tales are narrated by Shmul and include tales of colorful Russian characters he meets on a train, such as a snake-oil peddler, a nursing mother who abandoned her baby on the train, and a lady of the night who became a prima ballerina. The rabbi stories include tales of a musician who played at his own funeral, and a children's game that became a national pastime

Description from Publisher

Kantor prefaces his first attempt at fiction like this: "I never knew my great-great-grandfather Shmul. . . . But if he were to discuss his experiences as a youth and after he was ordained as a rabbi, I imagine these are the stories he might tell. . . .'' This timid introduction contrasts markedly with his amusing and uplifting group of tales, spun by the cocky ghetto youth Shmul, who works for the shtetl newspaper of Orsha to earn funds for rabbinical studies. He meets many entertaining characters while commuting by train between Orsha and the city of Smolensk (where Shmul picks up a packet of international news stories from a larger-circulation newspaper), including a "lady of the night'' who becomes a star ballerina; a wolfhound breeder who presents Shmul with a dog in defiance of a rule forbidding Jews to keep pets; and a hustling "snake medicine'' man. After Shmul becomes a rabbi he conveys enlightening yarns about his ghetto community, including a satisfying one of political revenge by a young man for the brutal murder of his parents by Cossacks. And wise morals abound, such as "When you meet a bird that is different from all the others, don't hang onto it. . . . Get rid of it as fast as possible!''

Description from Publisher's Weekly

The Miraculous Milk Cow:
More Tales My Great-Great-Grandfather Might Tell About Life in the Ghetto of Russia in the Time of the Czars

By Herman I. Kantor
Aided by a fertile imagination and a sure feeling for 19th-century Eastern European culture, Kantor has woven a rich tapestry of folklore depicting Jewish life in the village of Orsha, the actual home of a rabbi ancestor. Sixteen engaging stories mirror the people's daily struggle to maintain a religious/cultural identity in oppressive, anti-Semitic, czarist Russia. Some episodes deal with light themes, e.g., two bickering neighbors in conflict over a constantly escaping rooster need the rabbi to suggest a higher fence. In another vividly told tale, a spontaneous gypsy wedding leads to greater understanding between vastly different people. Other less-humorous accounts confront the misery often caused by customs such as arranged marriages. One misguided union results in an unpunished murder. Invented Yiddish and Russian names lend an authentic tone (and help to mitigate the occasional anchronism or lapse into colloquial English); primitive black-and-white illustrations enhance the text. Understanding a few of the plots requires a level of sophistication. Succeeding in its attempt to preserve the cultural legacy of a rich tradition, however, The Miraculous Milk Cow is a good choice for both school and public libraries

Description from School Library Journal

The Matzo Mitzvah :
Even More Tales My Great-Great-Grandfather Might Tell About Life in a Ghetto of Russia in the Time of the Czars

By Herman I. Kantor
Stories include:
  • The Cow Who Ate Meat
  • My Fellow Ghettoites
  • The Salesman's Donation
  • Frum
  • Sherlock Shmul
  • The Stranger
  • The Hat in the Horse Trough
  • The Rabbi's Shabbes Shoes
  • Not Guilty
  • The Matzo Mitzvah
  • The Rabbi and the Soldier

Call of the Shofar and other stories

By Chana Zuber-Sharfstein and Nissan Mindel,
Favorite short stories for young children, these tales of shtetl life are rich with moral content. Contains four stories, including "The Mirror," "The Bride," "The Little Tyrant," and the title story.

Description from Publisher

Such a Noise!
A Jewish Folktale

By Aliana Brodmann-Menkes
In this humorous retelling of a Jewish folk tale, the farmer complains to the rabbi about the noise and confusion in his house. Following the rabbi's advice, he brings in his whole barnyard of animals and then is greatly relieved when he finally removes them. The book suffers in comparison to Margot Zemach's matchless picture book It Could Always Be Worse

Description from Horn Book
Dybbuk
Dybbuk :
A Story Made in Heaven

By Francine Prose
In her first children's book, Prose weaves two old Jewish legends into a warm, funny story of love and trickery. Podwal's gouache and watercolor illustrations express the gentle magical realism of this shtetl tale; there's even a brightly colored picture of fiddlers on the roof. Before Leah and Chonon are born, the angels in heaven get together and decide that these two humans will marry. Leah grows up smart and pretty, and she does fall in love with Chonon, a brilliant student with the kindest heart and the loudest sneeze--Achoo! But her parents want her to marry Mean Old Benya, the most powerful man in Chopski. At the wedding, Leah talks in a deep, growling voice and sneezes loud--Achoo! over everything. The rabbi says it's because Leah is possessed by a dybbuk, and nothing can drive out the spirit until Leah is allowed to marry the man the angels chose. Adults who know the wild dybbuk stories may find this version too sweet, but the telling is wonderfully theatrical; there's no way to read this without acting the parts and laughing out loud.

from Booklist

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