Synopses & Reviews
"Kimmel's crisp but lyrical retelling of this early Hasidic legend has a steady pace and mounting tension that makes this a text certain to receive heavy use as a readaloud or told story, but it is as a readalone that this title will have the greatest impact. Muth's watercolors add a powerful emotional subtext to this already moving tale. The visual characterization of Gershon, in prayer shawl and yarmulke, sweeping his impish misdeeds into the cellar has both pathos and humor; the subtle palette (pale blue, sandy brown, creamy yellow) is clean and evocative, providing a peaceful background against which the protagonist, dressed in black, contrasts with a solid power. The compositions are elegantly arranged, whether featuring close-ups of Gershon's emotional reactions or showing his small figure in black coat and hat dragging a huge sackful of sins to the sea. The monstrous result of Gershon's negligence is appropriately horrific (some readers may be reminded of Brinton Turkle's nightmare in Do Not Open, BCCB 12/18) as it looms over the beach, blotting out the light of the blue summer sky. Muth's illustrations for Come On, Rain! (BCCB 4/99) revealed him to be an artist of exceptional skill at visual interpretation of text; this title will ensure that reputation. An author's note gives background on the story and the Jewish traditions from which it comes." JMD
--Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, October 2000, starred review
"This presentation of a Hasidic legend has everything a reader could want: a suspenseful story, an insightful lesson and brilliant pictures that accelerate the delivery of both. Centra to the plot is the custom of tashlikh, the ritual casting of sins into the water on the first day of Rosh Hashanah. Gershon the baker, "not always the best person he could be," begins to rely on this practice as a way of dealing with his mistakes: instead of apologizing and making amends, he sweeps his thoughtless deeds into the cellar every Friday and, on Rosh Hashanah, he stuffs them into a sack, drags it to the sea and tosses it in. Of course, he will learn true repentance--but not before he receives a cryptic prophecy from a sage and, much later, faces down the sea monster his sins have created. Relegating words like tashlikh to a meaty author's note (which also describes Jewish principles of t'shuvah, or repentance), Kimmel (Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins) uses everyday language, letting the moral shine through his astute storytelling. The airy watercolor illustrations, loaded with period detail, transcend the particularities of the setting by virtue of Muth's (Come on Rain!) expansive imaginative vision. He enhances the comedy in the premise by painting the sins as tiny horned imps who jeer as they face Gershon's broom (they grow a bit nastier as the story advances), yet he leaves room for a humane depiction of Gershon, more self-absorbed than wicked, and for a psychologically canny and dramatic portrayal of the monster. A memorable work, welcome at any time of year."
--Publishers Weekly, August 28, 2000 starred review.
"Kimmel is ably served by illustrator Muth, whose soft colored blues, grays, and beiges bring alive the watery landscape of Constantsa on the Black Sea in this quietly moralistic Hasidic tale. Muth uses the same gentleness that made Come On Rain (rev.7/99) so appealing, yet here his washes of color create a range of moods, from indifference to anger, from terror to calm. With confidence, Kimmel retells the story of Gershon, "not always the best person he could be,' who "shed(s] Ws mistakes and thoughtless acts like a dug sheds hair." Muth envisions these mistakes as tiny, inky gray monsters, which Gershon sweeps tip and pitches into the cellar. In several dynamic spreads, the black-hatted and suited Gershon bundles up these mischievous-looking. misdeeds and drags them, stuffed in a massive sack, down to the
There was once a baker named Gershon who was a sinner. His sins were the common ordinary, stuff; a few little lies, a broken promise, a temper lost for no reason. But unlike most people, Gershon never regretted what he had done. He never apologized or asked anyone's forgiveness. Why should he? He merely swept the little monsters up and tossed them into the celler. Then, once a year, on Rosh Hashanah, he would stuff them in a sack and throw them into the sea. Why should he bother asking anyone for forgiveness when getting rid of them was so easy? It was only a matter of time, though, before Gershon's bad ways caught up with him. And they did come back to haunt him. One day, as his two children played by the sea, those sins he thought he'd gotten rid of had grown into a giant sea monster Now they threatened what was most dear to him: his beloved children. Was it too late for Gershon to save them from his own mistakes?
About the Author
Jon J Muth has written and illustrated many enchanting picture books, including his Caldecott Honor Book ZEN SHORTS and its sequel, the NEW YORK TIMES bestselling picture book ZEN TIES. Other beloved titles from Jon include THE THREE QUESTIONS, GERSHON'S MONSTER by Eric Kimmel, and THE CHRISTMAS MAGIC by Lauren Thompson. Muth lives in upstate New York with his wife and five children.