The Entertainer and the Dybbuk by Sid Fleischman | Paperback | Barnes & Noble
The Entertainer and the Dybbuk
  • Alternative view 1 of The Entertainer and the Dybbuk
  • Alternative view 2 of The Entertainer and the Dybbuk

The Entertainer and the Dybbuk

3.8 5
by Sid Fleischman

View All Available Formats & Editions

"Why am I talking to you?" he asked aloud.

"I don't believe in ghosts."

"You want to know the truth," replied the dybbuk,

"Neither do I. But here I am."

Avrom Amos likes to crack jokes. He loves the spotlight. And if he wants something, he knows how to get it. He's just like any other boy, except for one thing: He's a


"Why am I talking to you?" he asked aloud.

"I don't believe in ghosts."

"You want to know the truth," replied the dybbuk,

"Neither do I. But here I am."

Avrom Amos likes to crack jokes. He loves the spotlight. And if he wants something, he knows how to get it. He's just like any other boy, except for one thing: He's a ghost—a dybbuk. During World War Two he'd been murdered by the Nazis, right after he saved the life of a young ventriloquist named Freddie.

Freddie doesn't know it yet, but he's about to return the favor. Because the dybbuk wants revenge, and he knows exactly how to get it.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Traveling into territory more commonly associated with Isaac Bashevis Singer, Newbery Medalist Fleischman (The Whipping Boy) draws attention to the especially cruel treatment of Jewish children during the Holocaust. The "Great Freddie" is a decorated GI, an orphan who has stayed in Europe and, by 1948, has found a toehold as a ventriloquist. And then Avrom Amos Poliakov shows up-rather, takes over. Avrom Amos is a dybbuk, a wandering soul or ghost, and, by demonstrating how he might speak for Freddie's wooden dummy, Avrom Amos convinces Freddie to let him lodge within Freddie. The dybbuk makes good on his promise, and Freddie's act becomes the toast of Paris. But Avrom Amos has his own agenda, as Freddie knows. He wants to track down the infamous SS colonel who not only killed him but also tortured children, including his sister, and before long, the dybbuk co-opts Freddie's act and his interviews to spread the word about the SS colonel. The dybbuk's voice will shock some readers; he speaks in embittered, Yiddish-inflected English that drives home his point. Here is Avrom Amos giving Freddie a history lesson: "You didn't hear [that Hitler] told his Nazi meshuggeners, those lunatics, 'Soldiers of Germany, have some fun and go murder a million and a half Jewish kids? All ages! Babies, fine. Girls with ribbons in their hair, why not?' " Fleischman inserts horrific factual details of Nazi brutality, and yet his message about bearing witness may be submerged beneath the sensational story line. Ages 9-14. (Sept.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Children's Literature - Julie Hendrix
In postwar Europe, 1948, an American ventriloquist known as The Great Freddie is struggling to prove himself. He was an American soldier fighting there in World War II, but he has stayed on because he has no family to return to. His act is mediocre and money is tight. After returning from a gig one night, he meets a mouthy, lanky street kid hiding in his closet. He introduces himself as a ghost, a dybbuk, of a Jewish kid who was killed in the war. This boy, Avrom Amos Poliakov, also claims to have saved Freddie's life in the war. Freddie, although caught in disbelief, cannot deny the circumstances. Avrom is looking for a body to possess in order to get revenge on the Nazi officer who killed him and his family. For quite some time, Freddie benefits from this possession. With Avrom's help, Freddie's act becomes authentic and is a huge hit all across Europe. Occasionally, Avrom takes complete control and shares the truth with the captive audience about how Nazi officers killed thousands of innocent Jewish children in the war. Colonel Junker-Strupp is the main culprit that Avrom is looking for. He has changed his name and moved to Phoenix, Arizona, so far escaping any punishment for his crimes. With Freddie's help, Avrom ends up in Arizona and finds a way to make the Colonel's life as miserable as possible as his revenge. Reviewer: Julie Hendrix
Patricia Ackerman
Touring post World War II Europe by train, The Great Freddie encounters a mysterious traveling companion. Together, the two of them regale audiences with tales of humor and atrocity. Freddie becomes bound to the spirit of this young Jewish boy, Avrom Amos. The only way the entertainer can return to his own "normal" life is to accompany this dybbuk on a cross-continental journey of revenge. Newberry Medalist Sid Fleishman captivates young readers from the first moment Freddie steps off the vaudevillian stage. Colorful characters and humorous on-stage dialogue juxtapose the serious business being conducted behind the scenes. So engaging is the tale of Freddie and Avrom's journey of revenge that readers may be unaware of how subtly they have been drawn onto a larger stage, one that portrays the atrocities to which Jewish children fell victim during the Holocaust. Reviewer: Patricia Ackerman
School Library Journal
Gr 6–10—Sid Fleischman's compelling story (Greenwillow, 2007) begins in 1948, three years after the end of World War II. In Vienna, Austria, "Freddie the Great," a second-rate American ventriloquist whose career is on the downswing, opens his hotel closet and sees a long-legged boy curled up on the floor. Twelve-year-old Avrom Amos Poliakov is a dybbuk, a wandering soul, who helped Sergeant Freddie T. Birch escape from a POW camp during the war and has returned to collect on the favor. And so begins the odd journey of the scrappy Avrom, ghost of a Jewish boy murdered by a German SS officer, and the struggling American entertainer. Avrom will help Freddie become a first-rate ventriloquist, but there's a catch: Avrom needs Freddie's help in tracking down Colonel Gerhard Junker-Strupp, the Nazi who killed him. Freddie becomes possessed by Avrom's spirit and is an instant hit in Paris. What unfolds is an entertaining and moving story, told with humor and pathos, and characters who embrace life despite unimaginable tragedies. Featuring excellent narration by Banna Rubinow and a full cast, the tale is brought to life with distinct and lively characterizations. The pacing is quick and sharp, the delivery is excellent, and each chapter begins and ends with piano music reminiscent of old-fashioned radio plays.—Roxanne Spencer, Western Kentucky University Libraries, Bowling Green

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.10(w) x 7.50(h) x 0.50(d)
Age Range:
9 - 12 Years

Read an Excerpt

The Entertainer and the Dybbuk

Chapter One

In the gray, bombed-out city of Vienna, Austria, an American ventriloquist opened the closet door of his hotel. Still in his tuxedo and overcoat, The Great Freddie intended to put away the battered suitcase in which he carried his silent wooden dummy. But there on the floor sat a gaunt man with arms folded across his knees, waiting. After a second glance, The Great Freddie realized it was a child, a long-legged child with the hungry look of a street kid. In the deep shadows the intruder glowed faintly, as if sprayed with moonlight.

"Well, well, howdy," said the ventriloquist, startled. "Waiting for a bus?"

"Waiting for you, Mr. Yankee Doodle, sir."

The entertainer, thin as a cornstalk from his native Nebraska, grinned and shucked his overcoat. Someone's idea of a prank, was this? "If you're under the notion that all Yanks are millionaires and an easy touch, you may go through my pockets. I'm just about broke. Tapped out. Down to bedrock."

"Feh! Who needs your money?" asked the intruder. "I once saved your life."

"You don't say."

"Would I lie to you?"

"You're a mouthy kid," the lanky American remarked. "I've never laid eyes on you."

"Want to bet, Sergeant?"

Sergeant? The Great Freddie's cat-green eyes narrowed as he peered into the closet. Confound this pest. How had he known that Freddie T. Birch, second-rate ventriloquist, had been in uniform? The big war in Europe had ended three years before. It was now 1948. Freddie's army haircut had long ago grown out. Now in his early twenties, he parted his hair in the middle and slicked it back,shiny as glass. What had tipped off this kid?

"Lucky guess," the entertainer said finally. What was it with the boy's eyes? They were unnaturally bright, as if lit from within. "Who are you, a kid actor from one of the theaters? I know makeup when I see it. You're painted up white as Caesar's ghost."

"I am a ghost," replied the intruder.

"Don't make me laugh."

"Am I cracking jokes, Mr. Yank?"

The Great Freddie, growing impatient, wanted to brush his teeth and tumble into bed. "Go haunt someone else. I can see your sharp elbows. Ghosts are wisps of fog."

"Sorry to disappoint you," said the intruder.

"Anyway, pal, I've never heard of a ghost in short pants."

"Excuse me, there are lots of us. Did they keep it a secret from you in the army? The Holocaust? Adolf Hitler—may he choke forever on herring bones! You didn't hear he told his Nazi meshuggeners, those lunatics, 'Soldiers of Germany, have some fun and go murder a million and a half Jewish kids? All ages! Babies, fine. Girls with ribbons in their hair, why not? Boys in short pants, like Avrom Amos Poliakov? That's me, and how do you do? No, I wasn't old enough for long pants. Me, not yet a bar mitzvah boy when the long-nosed German SS officer shot me and left me in the street to bleed to death. So, behold, you see a dybbuk in short pants, not yet thirteen but older'n God."

The Great Freddie took a deep breath. He was dimly aware that Hitler, the sputtering dictator with the fungus of a mustache, had sent children to his slaughterhouses. But so many?

Ugly vote by vote, the Germans had elected a lunatic to run their country. Freddie wasted no pity on the once-proud survivors who had voted him into power. They had drowned democracy like a kitten, invaded Poland and France and ignited World War II. Now Germany lay bombed into a rubble of fallen roofs and shattered lives. Freddie had volunteered to do his part.

The former bombardier cleared his mind of the war. "So you're a ghost in short pants."

"A dybbuk."

"A what?"

"I said, a dybbuk. A spirit. With tsuris. That means trouble in my native language, Mr. Far-Away America. Think of me as a Jewish imp. I need to possess someone's body for a while, rent free. You're kind of tall and skinny, but I won't complain."

The ventriloquist cocked an eye. "Has anyone told you you're a sassy kid or dybbuk or whatever you are?"

"When you dodge Nazi soldiers for years, why not? When you hide in sewers and then knock around with dybbuks for more years, your tongue sharpens like an ice pick. You'd prefer baby talk?"

"I'd prefer you attach yourself to someone else," said the ventriloquist. "I've got no time for a snotty spirit hanging on to me like a leech. I have enough trouble of my own."

"And no wonder, Mr. Entertainer," said the dybbuk. "I caught your act. You move your lips like a carp."

"And I'll bet you snuck in the theater."

"Why not?" replied the dybbuk. "Don't I come from a family of actors?"

The ventriloquist wondered if the glass of dinner wine he'd had after his last performance had gone to his head. "Why am I talking to you?" he asked aloud. "I don't believe in ghosts."

"You want to know the truth," replied the dybbuk, "neither do I. but here I am, fit as a fiddle."

The Great Freddie kicked the closet door shut. He was hallucinating, wasn't he? Dreaming on his feet?

The ventriloquist pulled off his jacket and patent-leather shoes. Early the next morning he had a train to catch. He had been booked for a week across the border in Italy. He brushed his teeth, checked the sheets for postwar bedbugs, and fell into bed.

"Sleep tight," said the dybbuk through the closet door.

The Entertainer and the Dybbuk. Copyright © by Sid Fleischman. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Meet the Author

Sid Fleischman has written over three dozen books for young readers, including the Newbery Award winner The Whipping Boy. Before becoming a writer, he worked as a professional magician, then as a reporter. His other books include Disappearing Act and his acclaimed autobiography, The Abracadabra Kid. You can visit him on the Web at

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >