Golem

( 13 )

Overview

A saintly rabbi miraculously brings to life a clay giant who helps him watch over the Jews of sixteenth-century Prague. Retold from traditional sources and accompanied by masterful cut-paper illustrations. "The cut-paper collages are exquisitely produced and exceedingly dramatic. There is menace and majesty in Wisniewski's use of color, and he finds atmosphere and terror in a scissor's stroke. A fact-filled final note concludes this mesmerizing book." -- Kirkus Reviews, pointer ...
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Golem

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Overview

A saintly rabbi miraculously brings to life a clay giant who helps him watch over the Jews of sixteenth-century Prague. Retold from traditional sources and accompanied by masterful cut-paper illustrations. "The cut-paper collages are exquisitely produced and exceedingly dramatic. There is menace and majesty in Wisniewski's use of color, and he finds atmosphere and terror in a scissor's stroke. A fact-filled final note concludes this mesmerizing book." -- Kirkus Reviews, pointer

A saintly rabbi miraculously brings to life a clay giant who helps him watch over the Jews of sixteenth-century Prague.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"The cut-paper collages are exquisitely produced and exceedingly dramatic. There is menace and majesty in Wisniewski's use of color, and he finds atmosphere and terror in a scissor's stroke. A fact-filled final note concludes this mesmerizing book." Kirkus Reviews with Pointers
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Elaborately composed cut-paper spreads give a 3D, puppet-show-like quality to a retelling of a Jewish legend. Rabbi Loew has a prophetic vision in 1580 when the Jews of Prague are accused of mixing the blood of Christian children into matzoh: he must create a Golem, "a giant of living clay, animated by Cabala, mystical teachings of unknown power." Brought to life with apocalyptic explosions of steam and rain, the Golem seeks out the perpetrators of the Blood Lie and turns them over to the authorities. Thwarted, the enraged enemies of the Jews storm the gates of the ghetto, but the Golem grows to enormous height and violently defeats them with their own battering ram. Once his work is done, he pitifully (and futilely) begs the Rabbi: "Please let me live! I did all that you asked of me! Life is so... precious... to me!" Wisniewski (The Wave of the Sea Wolf) emphasizes the Golem's humanity and the problems with his existence; instead of reducing the legend to a tale of a magical rescuer, the author allows for its historical and emotional complexity. The fiery, crisply layered paper illustrations, portraying with equal drama and precision the ornamental architecture of Prague and the unearthly career of the Golem, match the specificity and splendor of the storytelling. An endnote about the history and influence of the legend is particularly comprehensive. Ages 6-10. (Oct.)
School Library Journal
Gr 3 UpWisniewski's retelling of the golem legend varies only slightly from the traditional version recounted by Beverly McDermott in The Golem (HarperCollins, 1975; o.p.). It is the tale of a clay giant formed in the image of man to protect the Jewish people of medieval Prague from destruction by their enemies. His master, the chief rabbi of Prague in the late 16th century, was a highly regarded Cabbalist (a mystic). In this telling, the golem speaks with the simplicity of a child (In many versions he is mute), and he is destroyed when the emperor guarantees the safety of the Jewish people. (Traditionally, the golem goes berserk and must be returned to the earth.) A lengthy note explains the idea of the Golem and details Jewish persecution throughout history. Wisniewski has used layers of cut paper to give depth to his illustrations, many of which have a three-dimensional appearance. A wispy layer, which begins as the vapor of creation, becomes smoke from torches carried by an angry mob of armed silhouette people and horses. The colors are browns and grays of the earth, sunrise mauve, and the pumpkin and burnt orange of fire and sunset. Skillful use of perspective enhances the Golem's immense size. While the plot is stronger than in Mark Podwal's retelling (Greenwillow, 1995), Wisniewski's text lacks the power and child appeal of McDermott's spare, well-crafted tale. Still, collections wanting another edition of the story might consider this one.Susan Scheps, Shaker Heights Public Library, OH
Kirkus Reviews
The much honored cut-paper master (Sundiata, 1992, etc.) turns his attention to a retelling of the story of the Golem, created by a chief rabbi, Judah Loew, to defend the Jews against the "Blood Lie" (that Jews were mixing the blood of Christian children with the flour and water of matzoh) of 16th-century Prague.

Like Rogasky's book (see review, above), Wisniewski's exposes the slander that was embraced and widely promulgated during the Holocaust years. Loew's Golem—a sort of simple yet powerful giant made of clay with the Hebrew word emet (truth) on his forehead—is named Joseph and charged to "guard the ghetto at night and catch those planting false evidence of the Blood Lie . . . and bring them unharmed to the authorities." In Wisniewski's story, the Golem turns back the rampaging masses who want to destroy the Jews of Prague and is eventually returned to the clay from which he sprang. The cut-paper collages are exquisitely produced and exceedingly dramatic. There is menace and majesty in Wisniewski's use of color, and he finds atmosphere and terror in a scissor's stroke. A fact- filled final note concludes this mesmerizing book.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780395726181
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 10/28/1996
  • Format: Library Binding
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 32
  • Sales rank: 719,705
  • Age range: 8 - 11 Years
  • Lexile: 690L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 9.25 (w) x 11.00 (h) x 0.13 (d)

Meet the Author

David Wisniewski (wiz-NESS-key) was born in Middlesex, England, in 1953. After training at Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Clown College, he spent three years as a clown, designing and constructing his own props, costumes, and gags. He was subsequently hired by his future wife, Donna, as a performer with a traveling puppet theatre. Married six months later, the Wisniewskis started their own troupe, Clarion Shadow Theatre, specializing in shadow puppetry. In the course of creating the plays, puppets, and projected scenery, Mr. Wisniewski evolved the storytelling techniques and art skills that eventually led to his picture books with their unique cut-paper illustrations. His retelling of GOLEM was awarded the 1997 Caldecott Medal. David Wisniewski died in 2002 in the Maryland home he shared with his wife and two children.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 13 )
Rating Distribution

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Sort by: Showing all of 13 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 19, 2010

    Haunting Children's Book

    This is not your typical children's book. While its illustrations are beautiful and haunting paper-cut, it is dark and intense and not appropriate for small children. It is a complex fable and retelling of a Jewish tale. I could see how this book might be useful in a class of older students who are discussing Jewish culture and/or history. I could also see it being used with a high school class studying Frankenstein. This is not one of my favorite Caldecott winners, while its pictures certainly deserve the honor, it is not a book that I will love to read and re-read as many other winners are.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 30, 2007

    Review

    David Wisniewski was both a storyteller and an illustrator. He was born in England, and lived in Germany, Nebraska, Texas, and Maryland. He spent some time as a circus clown, and performed in his own puppet theater troupe. He later moved to Monrovia, Maryland, where he lived with his wife and children. On September 11, 2002, he passed away after a brief illness at the age of 49. Wisniewski won the Caldecott Medal in 1997 for Golem. Rabbi Loew has a dream that a clay giant would rescue the Jews. After awakening, he spoke with a couple of other people about building the giant at night. The giants name was Golem, but the rabbi said that he would call him Joseph. The Golem asked, ¿How long shall I live?¿, the rabbi¿s reply was until the Jews are no longer in danger. Golem grew in size, and also grew to appreciate nature. Immediately Golem began to protect the Jews, and their jails were full. One night after an extremely destructive battle, Golem had to be turned back to clay.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 23, 2007

    Golem

    Golem is a 1997 Caldecott award winning book. This book would be good for 4th graders. It is a very informational book that can help students learn more about different religions such as Jewish. This is a Jewish story. I found this book to be a great story and also sad. The part where he turns the the rabbie and says 'Father please let me live' is sad. However the Rabbi dismisses this statement by saying that' He is not truly a man'. Because he was made out of clay and made to defeand the jews!Wiesner, David. Golem. New York, NY: Haughton Mifflin Co., 1996.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 20, 2007

    good pictures

    Wisnieaski David, Golem clarion books, new York David Wisniewski (wiz-NESS-key) was both a storyteller and an illustrator. Born in England, David lived in Germany, Nebraska, Texas, and Maryland. He spent three years as a circus clown. After that, he performed in his own puppet theater troupe. Eventually, David settled in Monrovia, Maryland, where he lived with his wife and children. On September 11, 2002, he passed away after a brief illness at the age of 49. To create his pictures, David cut layers of colored paper with an X-Acto knife. For one book, he would use nearly 1,000 blades. His book Golem won the 1997 Caldecott Award This book was about the Jews facing troubled times. A rabbi made a man of clay to protect them in their time of need. The clay man was named Golem. He did his job and protected the Jews and their kingdom. However when the job was don¿t and his time was over he was resistant to leave. His maker had to destroy him when he was no longer needed. The pictures where great and detailed however I would suggest parental reading before allowing a child to read the book. There are many faiths and this book is in relation to the Jewish faith. It is about a power above any human force made by a rabbi to save the Jews ¿Was this wise to do?¿, ¿ We shall know soon enough¿

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 18, 2007

    Powerful illustrations

    This book was amazing. The subject matter is different than the typical children's book. It is set in the city of Prague in 1580 and it speaks about the ' ignorant fury of others' the Jews were having to endure. The book teaches about diversity, and the issues involved when we as humans unleash powers that are bigger than ourselves. We also learn about hatred , strife, and the nature of humanity. This book explains new terms, such as'cabbalah, and Mitzah' in a smooth way, and it draws you in emotionally. The illustrations are amazing. The hard lines, intense color, and the harshness of the pictures work in perfect harmony with the purpose of the book. Wisniewski,David. 'Golem'. New York:Houghton Mifflin Company, October 1996.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 26, 2006

    Wonderful cut-paper illustrations!

    Golem is the story of a giant man of clay who was created to protect the Jews in Prague. Golem loves life and doesn¿t want to return to being just clay when the Jews are safe. The cut-paper illustrations also by David Wisniewski bring depth and life to the story. It¿s a thought-provoking story. I highly recommend it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 30, 2006

    My Review

    The Jewish legend of Golem has been around for centuries. It is the tale of a rabbi who constructs a giant from clay to protect the Jewish people. When Golem asks the rabbi, ¿How long shall I live?¿ the rabbi replies ¿Until the Jews are no longer in danger. Then you will return to the earth from whence you came.¿ Golem soon learns that the world is a beautiful place and appreciates every sunrise and sunset. He grows into a great giant who towers over the city to protect the Jews, but he longs to stay alive. Will Golem protect the Jews and be returned to clay or will he be able to live forever?

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 26, 2006

    Protecting the Jews

    The book retells the legend of Rabbi Leow and the Golem he created from clay to protect the Jews of Prague during a time of danger for them. Anti-semitic factions within the city were spreading rumors that Passover matzoh was made with the blood of Christian children this rumor, called the Blood Lie, led to attacks and abuses of the defenseless Jews. Already, the story is a deeply distressing one, too upsetting for the average child. It gets worse, though - the Golem, who calls Rabbi Leow 'Father,' protects and saves the Jews, and then begs the Rabbi not to kill him. Leow does anyway. While the message here is one about the wise use of power, it was mostly lost on our family, since at that point everyone was crying too hard to think at all. There's no doubt that the book is well presented. It's beautiful, with cut-paper illustrations that seem to spring off the page. This book received a Caldecott Medal in 1997 and is for ages 8-11.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 27, 2006

    Golem

    The story of Golem wrote and illustrated by David Wisniewski. Golem is a 400 year old figure that was made and brought to life b a Jewish school teacher. An intense story of supernatural forces that could demoralize people against Jews. Golem gives insight on would could be beyond humanity. Wisniewski¿s ability as an author and illustrators that are exposed throughout this book show his exceptional skills.I think the history behind this book should be known to the reader for better understanding. Wisniewski, David. Golem. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1996

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 22, 2006

    Traditional literature at its best through a simple legend

    Golem, retold and illustrated by David Wisniewski, is a Jewish legend where the theme is centered around the consequences of power beyond human control. In the land of Prague in 1580, the chief rabbi, Judah Loew ben Bezalel, watched his fellow Jews suffer great cruelty due to the 'Blood Lie' The author described the 'Blood Lie' by saying. ' Enemies accused them of mxing the blood of Christian children with the flour and water of matzoh, the unleavened Passover bread.' Due to the 'Blood Lie', Rabbi Loew created Golem from clay, a Cabala spell,and iron struck by lightning which then enter the ground. Golem was created to protect the Jews from danger, and punish those who tried to harm them. After time, Golem also called Joseph began to see the beauty of the earth, but was soon reminded of his mission. People began to see the truth and became furious. They formed a mob to attack the Jews, but one thing stood in their way. Looking at the cover of the book, I really didn't expept to enjoy the book. However, after reading it, I was amazing. I had never heard this legend before, and the illustrations were vibrant and colorful. They really seemed to jump off the page. I also enjoyed reading the history behind the legend in the back of the book. Once again, I am giving information that I didn't know. I love books that bring new information to life, even when it is over a thousand years old. I would recommend this book to grades 4th up due. David Wisniewski used cut out illustrations to bring depth and texture to his pictures. His illustration seemed more like a cartoons than drawings. It was his illustrations that earned him the Caldecott Medal in 1997. David trained for art by attending the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Clown College. After traveling the roads as a clown, David returned to his hometown, Washington, D.C where he married Donna Harris and had two children. David passed away on September 11, 2002, he was 49 years old. Wisniewski, David. Golem. New York: Clarion Books, 1996.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 28, 2006

    Great Story!

    This book a theme is a story from four hundred years ago according to legend. The story goes that a scholar and Jewish teacher shaped a giant man of clay making him a golem. The task of the golem was to vanquish the people who persecuted the Jew of Prague. But the monster performed his duties a little to well. This story is a dramatic tale of supernatural forces to save the people and learn out human control. This book would be good for every child that likes mystery and who understands not to be afraid of the genre of picture book. The author of this book David Wisniewski is a storyteller and an illustrator and he spent three years as a circus clown. On September 11, 2002, he passed away after a brief illness at the age of 49, but his book Golem won the 1997 Caldecott Award.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 20, 2001

    Fable of Jewish Self-Defense Against Persecution

    This book won the Caldecott Medal in 1997 for being the best illustrated children's book of that year. The book is filled with powerful two-page spreads that highlight the struggle between good and evil, love and hatred, and spiritual forces against human ones. The images are built from cut-outs turned into complex collages featuring primary colors that give a sense of the images racing across the page. You will feel like you are looking at an animated cartoon rather than an illustrated book. The golem is 'a giant of living clay animated by Cabala (mystical teachings of spiritual power)' performed by Judah Loew ben Bezalel, chief rabbi of Prague, in 1580. Jews were under attack by their neighbors because of a false rumor (called the 'Blood Lie') that during Passover the unleavened matzoh of flour and water was being mixed with the blood of Christian children. With the help of the powerful golem, the emperor sues for peace, and promises the security of the Jews. The golem is turned back into unanimated clay. This book is a pretty heavy duty look at how humans can be inhuman to other humans. Most children will not be comfortable with the message in this book until after they have learned about the Holocaust. Sensitive children will probably always feel uncomfortable with the story. When was the last time you learned a lot from a children's book? Personally, I was fascinated by the story. I knew a little about golems from having attended art exhibitions about them. I also have a number of golems in my collection. But this book taught me more about golems that everything I knew before I read it. There is an excellent note at the end that helps explain what the rabbi did in the fable in terms of its religious significance. For example, I would have thought that it was against Jewish law to animate clay (no images). The book explains that there is an exception available that was followed here. I also did not know that Frankenstein was inspired, in part, by this fable. I would have liked to know more about that. The story raises many interesting ethical questions. For example, why didn't the emperor protect his Jewish neighbors until his subjects were threatened by the golem? Why could the rabbi take life away from the golem, when the golem wanted to continue to live? What responsibility did the rabbi have when the golem lost control? Why did the rabbi observe Kaddish for the golem? A great use of this story would be to discuss some of these points with a rabbi available to help clarify the fable's meaning in terms of the Jewish religion. After you finish thinking about the story, I suggest that you extend your consideration to include ways that misunderstandings can be avoided that create violence. If this situation were to occur during Passover in Prague in 2002, what would good things be to do? Open your eyes, your ears, your heart, and your soul to love God and your fellow humans! Donald Mitchell, co-author of The Irresistible Growth Enterprise and The 2,000 Percent Solution

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 22, 2000

    This book is very good

    This book is one to the best in retelling the stories that we all know. These are stories every child should read. They can get a handle on all the legends and fairy-tales no one ever gets to hear anymore.

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