Even Higher!: A Rosh Hashanah Story

Overview

Award-winning author Eric A. Kimmel's whimsical retelling of this Rosh Hashanah tale, paired with Jill Weber's charming illustrations, will take readers to a higher place.

Every year, just before Rosh Hashanah, the rabbi of Nemirov disappears. The villagers are certain their rabbi flies up to heaven to speak with God. Where else would such a great and holy man go just before the fate of every soul is decided for the coming year? But a ...

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Overview

Award-winning author Eric A. Kimmel's whimsical retelling of this Rosh Hashanah tale, paired with Jill Weber's charming illustrations, will take readers to a higher place.

Every year, just before Rosh Hashanah, the rabbi of Nemirov disappears. The villagers are certain their rabbi flies up to heaven to speak with God. Where else would such a great and holy man go just before the fate of every soul is decided for the coming year? But a skeptical Litvak scoffs at the villagers, claiming miracles cannot happen. He vows to discover the rabbi's secret, but what he witnesses—an enormous act of human compassion—will make any doubter believe.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Each year, before the High Holy Days, the saintly rabbi in the Ukrainian town of Nemirov disappears. His congregation is convinced that he literally ascends to heaven to plead their case before God. But a skeptic discovers the truth, and it has nothing to do with miracles, and everything to do with being a mensch. Drawn from Peretz's opus, this tale will probably be an old acquaintance to frequenters of youth Shabbat services. But Kimmel (The Mysterious Guests: A Sukkot Story) and Weber (Maple Syrup Season) make it fresh again. Kimmel's wise, reassuring voice embellishes the story with wonderful details (to ready for his journey, the rabbi dresses in “a linen blouse and trousers, tall boots, a wide leather belt, a long woolen coat, and a greasy sheepskin cap”), while keeping the narrative taut. And as usual, Kimmel brings out the best in his collaborators: without veering into false sentimentality or Fiddler on the Roof stereotypes, Weber's colorful, openhearted drawings immerse readers in a lost world where piety defined life and the quest for truth was the biggest adventure of all. Ages 4–8. (Sept.)
Children's Literature - Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
Every year in the days before Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year holiday, the rabbi of the village of Nemerov disappears. The villagers are sure that he goes to heaven, to plead with God to forgive sinners during that time when God decides the fate of their souls in the coming year. One day a skeptical Litvak refuses to believe that the rabbi goes to heaven. He determines to follow him to see where he does go. Dressed as a peasant, the rabbi chops firewood, which he takes to the home of a poor old sick woman. He lights a fire for her and dances with her, singing, "Life is worth living!" Seeing this, the Litvak not only becomes a follower of the rabbi but when others say that the rabbi flies to heaven, he adds, "Who knows? Maybe even higher!" Young readers may have to ponder the moral of the deftly retold story, restated by Kimmel as, "Ordinary kindness and compassion are enough to save the world." Weber's illustrations resemble folk art in their simplicity and inclusion of details like the Litvak's clothing and dangling prayer shawl, or the pushcarts with their fish and vegetables. Multiple actions fill the double pages as the tale evolves. Weber effectively uses gouache, gesso, watercolor, ink, colored pencils, and caran d'ache wax crayons to provide the visual background information. Comic touches include some dancing mice and a goat that follows the Litvak chewing on almost anything in sight. Check the back of the jacket/cover for a parade of the images inside. A note adds background information. Reviewer: Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
School Library Journal
Gr 2–5—Each year, the revered rabbi of an Eastern European village disappears for a few days before the Jewish New Year. The townsfolk speculate that he spends the time in heaven, personally asking God to forgive the villagers' sins. When a skeptical stranger follows the rabbi, he finds him performing a deed whose worth is "even higher": the rabbi chops wood to provide for a poor, elderly, sickly woman. Kimmel's adaptation is fairly traditional, but he has added a few elements that seem a bit at odds with the story, including a Ukrainian drinking song and a miraculous cure. The story is rooted firmly in the shtetl setting and is best appreciated by readers with some prior knowledge of this culture. Despite the cheerful cartoon illustrations, this is not the most child-friendly retelling. For a version more appealing to children, try Richard Ungar's Even Higher (Tundra, 2007), which features a curious boy instead of a doubting adult.—Heidi Estrin, Feldman Children's Library at Congregation B'nai Israel, Boca Raton, FL
Kirkus Reviews
Each year just before the High Holidays, the Rabbi of Nemirov disappears. The people are convinced that he goes to heaven to consult with God, but a skeptical (if pious and learned) Litvak refuses to believe in such a miracle. To prove his point, the Litvak secretly follows the Rabbi, who changes into the outfit of a peasant, leaves his house with an ax and some rope, enters the forest and chops some firewood, bringing it neatly tied to the shack of a sick old woman. The Rabbi kindly lights a fire and helps the woman recover enough to dance and sing. The Litvak learns an important lesson: The Rabbi's altruism places him on a higher level than regular folk. Kimmel has retained the base of the classic Isaac Leib Peretz tale, altering it slightly to have the old woman leave her sick bed to celebrate the joy of life through song and dance and incorporating a Ukrainian folksong that has become a Rosh Hashanah hymn. Weber's delicate, simple watercolor, crayon and ink drawings add a guileless charm to the Old World shtetl scenes. (Picture book. 5-7)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780823422982
  • Publisher: Holiday House, Inc.
  • Publication date: 6/28/2010
  • Pages: 32
  • Sales rank: 494,033
  • Age range: 4 - 8 Years
  • Product dimensions: 7.80 (w) x 9.50 (h) x 0.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Eric A. Kimmel is a celebrated children's author and master storyteller who has won the Sydney Taylor Lifetime Achievement Award. His work has been honored with the National Jewish Book Award as well as the Anne Izard Storytellers' Choice Award. His Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins, illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman, was a Caldecott Honor Book. Visit him on the web at www.ericakimmel.com.

Jill Weber is a children's book illustrator and designer. Kirkus Reviews raved that the "childlike feel" of her gouache illustrations for Ann Purmell's Maple Syrup Season "suits the family-centered text perfectly." She lives in New Hampshire.

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