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SHLEMIEL CROOKS

Author: Anna Olswanger

Illustrator: Paula Goodman Koz

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Publisher: Junebug Books,

Material: hard cover

Summary: Elias Olswanger owned a store that sold kosher wine and spirits in St. Louis. In 1919, just before Passover, two crooks tried to rob his store in the middle of the night. When a neighbor heard some noise, he woke other neighbors...all while Elias was sleeping at temple. When he got home, the crooks were gone, and he had a new horse and wagon. Passover was save. This fictional tale is drawn from a family's history in St. Louis.

Type of Reading: playtime reading, read aloud book, interactive reading

Recommended Age: read together: 5 to 10; read yourself: 8 to 12

Interest Level: 6 to 10

Reading Level: 4.9

Age of Child: Read with 7-year-old girl.

Young Reader Reaction: Our daughter followed along, and had lots of questions about some of the words (crooks, garments, workhouse, trolley car, tummel). She thought the sidebars about what should happen to the robbers was funny.

Adult Reader Reaction: This is an enjoyable, clever, albeit wordy, story. There are lots of asides, and after a while, the humor is lost. The author uses questions, but they are clearly rhetorical, touched with some sarcasm. The illustrations are clever and add personality to the tale.

Pros: Everyone can enjoy this story about Passover. It offers some wonderful, informative tidbits about Passover, Jewish history, and the Old Testament.

Cons: It reads almost too colloquial, like its meant only for a niche audience, not a universal one.

Borrow or Buy: Borrow. This is a fun story to read at any season, but particularly around Passover.

If You Liked This Book, Try: THE CASE AGAINST MY BROTHER   HERSHEL AND THE HANUKKAH GOBLINS   I ONLY LIKE WHAT I LIKE

Educational Themes: The author built this story around her family history, using documents about her great-grandfather Elias Olsschwanger. Why not use that idea to create stories from your own family history? There is enough context that you could also look at the merchant trade in the early 20th Century; Jewish history; the creation of Israel, among others. You can also have fun with many of the Yiddish terms ... how many have become mainstream sayings/cliche?

Notes: Flesh Kincaid reading level 4.9

Literary Categories: Fiction - picture book, historical fiction, humor, cultures and tradition, 1900s, Judaism

Date(s) Reviewed: June 2008

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