WHILE STANDING ON ONE FOOT

PUZZLE STORIES AND WISDOM TALES FROM THE JEWISH TRADITION

Eighteen stories testifying to the tradition of quick-thinking mother wit that has saved countless individuals, as well as larger Jewish populations, from harm—like the man who, offered a choice of how he'll be put to death, contemplates briefly and replies that he would like to die of old age. After narrating each story up to its denouement, the authors invite readers to come up with a solution to the seemingly implacable problem before providing the classic answer. Thus, this unusual and appealing collection can be used as a teaching tool offering examples of graceful logic; it's also a fine source for storytellers, and should enjoy wide usage in a variety of venues. Attractive format; Segal's stylized b&w illustrations are at once comic and wonderfully austere. Sources and suggestions for further reading and research. Glossary; notes on the stories. (Folklore. 8+)

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 1993

ISBN: 0-8050-2594-4

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 1993

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Warmhearted cross-cultural friendship for a refugee on distant shores: both necessary and kind.

LETTERS FROM CUBA

In 1938, a Jewish refugee from Poland joins her father in small-town Cuba.

After three years abroad, Papa’s saved only enough money to send for one of his children. Thus Esther boards the steamship alone even though she’s not quite 12. Cuba is a constant surprise: Her father’s an itinerant peddler and not a shopkeeper; they live as the only Jews in a tiny village; and she’s allowed to wear sandals and go bare-legged in the heat. But the island is also a constant joy. Nearly everyone Esther meets is generous beyond their means. She adores her new trade as a dressmaker, selling her creations in Havana to earn money to bring over the rest of the family. In glowing letters to her sister back in Poland, Esther details how she’s learning Spanish through the poems of José Martí. She introduces her sister to her beloved new friends: a White doctor’s wife and her vegetarian, atheist husband; a Black, Santería-following granddaughter of an ex-slave; a Chinese Cuban shopkeeper’s nephew. Esther’s first year in Cuba is marked by the calendar of Jewish holidays, as she wonders if she can be both Cuban and a Jew. As the coming war looms in Europe, she and her friends find solidarity, standing together against local Nazis and strike breakers. An author’s note describes how the story was loosely inspired by the author’s own family history.

Warmhearted cross-cultural friendship for a refugee on distant shores: both necessary and kind. (bibliography) (Historical fiction. 8-11)

Pub Date: Aug. 25, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-51647-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2020

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LETTERS FROM RIFKA

Beginning in Russia in 1919, this epistolary novel, based on experiences of the author's great-aunt, tells how 12-year-old Rifka Nebrot and her family fled the anti-Semitism of post-revolutionary Russia and emigrated to the US. The letters, each prefaced by a few telling lines of Pushkin, tell of the fear, indignities, privation, and disease endured as they traveled through Poland and into Belgium, where Rifka had to be left behind for several months because she was unacceptable as a steamship passenger: she had ringworm. Finally reaching Ellis Island, she was held in quarantine because the ringworm had left her bald—making her an undesirable immigrant because it was thought that she'd be unable to find a husband to support her. Eventually, Rifka talked her way into the country; her energy, cleverness, and flair for languages convinced officials that she wouldn't become a ward of the state. Told with unusual grace and simplicity, an unforgettable picture of immigrant courage, ingenuity, and perseverance. (Fiction. 10+)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-8050-1964-2

Page Count: 148

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1992

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