“Such a Library!: A Yiddish Folktale Re-Imagined” by Jill Nadler Ross, illustrated by Esther Van Den Berg— A Special Librarian

Nadler, Jill Ross. “Such a Library!: A Yiddish Folktale Re-Imagined”, (pictures by Esther Van Den Berg) Intergalactic Afikoman, 2020..

A Special Librarian

Amos Lassen

I often wonder what will happen to the Yiddish language now that my generation knows very little of it. It has been dying for years and today’s youngsters are basically unaware of its importance to the Jewish people. Jill Ross Nadler with “Such a Library” shares an old Yiddish folktale for today’s children and gives them a delightful read and introduces them to Yiddish.

“Such a Library” begins with a retelling of an old Yiddish folktale and then moves to  a modern-day library with very special  librarian, Miss Understood. Stevie likes the library to be quiet but that changes with Miss Understood who does not understand his complaint about the noise. When Stevie tells her that the library sounds like a party going on, she think that is a wonderful idea and opens a book from hundreds of balloons fill the room adding to the noise level rather than do anything about it. Stevie tells her that it sounds like a zoo and soon animals come out of the opened book and the party becomes a circus. It seems that every time Muss Understood says, “Once Upon a time” the noise level rises. When the noise finally dies down with the animals and circus performers returning to the pages of the book, it becomes quiet again and Stevie understands what real noise is. He had thought that the sounds of computers and turning pages were noisy but nothing compared to Miss Understood’s book.

I can just see youngsters being spellbound by this book and I love its message and the picture we get of a modern librarian who understands the children who come to read. The story beautifully illustrates the line from the Sayings of Our Fathers and the Yiddish proverb of “Who is rich? The one who is happy with what he has”. To make things even sweeter, there is an explanation of how the Yiddish folktale evolved into this modern retelling. We all know that no matter how bad a situation is, it could always be worse. In fact, the message here is not just for children but for children of all ages.

I love the illustrations and use of color as well as the loss of innocence (in a sense) about libraries. I can see young folk being mesmerized as the story is told to them and I especially love that they get not only a wonderful story with beautiful illustrations but also a sense of Jewish history and an introduction to a culture that is now gone.

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