Mysterious Guests: A Harvest Story


Master storyteller Eric A. Kimmel spins a tale of Sukkot in this heart-warming tale.

It was the season of Sukkot, the Jewish harvest festival. Two brothers each built a sukkah to celebrate and share the gifts of the earth. One brother was very rich; he built a sukkah of great riches and splendor. He invited only the richest guests to celebrate and share with him. The other brother was very poor. He built a sukkah of found materials and ...

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Master storyteller Eric A. Kimmel spins a tale of Sukkot in this heart-warming tale.

It was the season of Sukkot, the Jewish harvest festival. Two brothers each built a sukkah to celebrate and share the gifts of the earth. One brother was very rich; he built a sukkah of great riches and splendor. He invited only the richest guests to celebrate and share with him. The other brother was very poor. He built a sukkah of found materials and leftover goods, yet he invited all to share the holiday with him. When three mysterious guests visit each brother on Sukkot, they leave a special blessing behind—a blessing that touches not the beauty of the sukkah, but the generosity of the heart.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Sukkot is one of those Jewish holidays that never get a fair shake, literary-wise. But Kimmel and Krenina (previously paired for The Castle of the Cats) go a long way toward remedying this situation with a lyrically rendered tale of charity rewarded. In ancient times, two brothers-stingy, rich Eben and generous, poor Ezra-are each dwelling in a temporary shelter known as a sukkah, as is customary during the seven-day celebration. A disheveled-looking trio, who are actually Abraham, Isaac and Jacob down from heaven in search of a few good menschen, visit the brothers in turn, testing their hospitality, offering parables and pronouncing judgment with a phrase-"May this sukkah's outside be like its inside"-which quickly proves to have a double meaning. Krenina's stylized, harvest-toned acrylics and thoughtful, dark-eyed characters evoke a world where the everyday and mystical are intertwined, and righteousness is clear-cut. As usual, Kimmel takes an expansive, grandfatherly tone, offering a lesson wrapped in a reassuring hug. Ages 6-10. (Sept.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Children's Literature - Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
This moral tale begins with the legend in which the Biblical forefathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob return to Earth in disguise for the harvest holiday of Sukkot and ask to share the holiday meal. If welcomed, they leave a blessing; if not, they teach a lesson. In Israel live two brothers. Eben is both rich and selfish, while Ezra is poor but kind and generous. During Sukkot, when poor folks come to Eben's luxurious sukkah banquet, they are turned away. Ezra's sukkah is not grand, but he does his best to prepare and shares with everyone. When the forefathers arrive in dusty cloaks and worn-out sandals, they are welcomed everywhere but at Eben's. They tell him a story that ends with a lesson and the ruin of his sukkah. Ezra, of course, welcomes them. This time the story has a happier ending. And Eben has learned to mend his ways. Krenina's acrylic illustrations project a dense, rather dark atmosphere. The characters are mainly seated in the sukkahs surrounded by the fruits of the harvest, with the table's cover used as background for the lengthy text. The painterly scenes primarily contribute emotion rather than action. The author adds background information about the holiday. Reviewer: Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
School Library Journal

K-Gr 4

Kimmel weaves common folk elements with traditions from the Jewish holiday. Two brothers set up their sukkot. The stingy, rich brother has a beautiful one but begrudges food to strangers. The poor, kind brother's humble sukkah is open to all. The biblical patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are the mysterious guests who curse the unwelcoming host and bless the hospitable one. All ends well as the kind brother gains the riches he deserves, while the mean one learns his lesson. Readers will enjoy the sensory frisson as each sukkah transforms into the rotted shell or glittering bower that represents its inner atmosphere. Universal themes of hospitality and justice make the story emotionally satisfying. Krenina's dark, rich paintings support the folktale flavor of the original story. This entertaining tale conveys important values that are applicable year-round and in every tradition.-Heidi Estrin, Feldman Children's Library at Congregation B'nai Israel, Boca Raton, FL

Kirkus Reviews
Wealth and kindness vie in this instructive autumn-holiday morality story illustrated with Krenina's dim, muted acrylics in harvest hues. Two brothers, one rich, pompous and undeserving, the other modest, charitable and selfless, live separately and hold individual Sukkot celebrations. Jewish tradition states that the weeklong observance, held in a small hut (sukkah) just outside the home, include the welcoming of guests at the family meals. When three weary travelers (the spirits of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob) knock on each brother's door, a test ensues to see if the welcome they receive merits a blessing or a curse. Wealthy Eben invites only certain proper and important people to his table and barely allows the disheveled travelers space in a corner, while kind Ezra happily welcomes them as equals-with entirely predictable curses and blessings, respectively. Typical of Kimmel's work but not his best, this holiday offering is handicapped by the dark and dense illustrations. Still, the shelves do not overflow with Sukkot tales; this is a serviceable stopgap while waiting for more. (author's note) (Picture book. 5-8)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780823418930
  • Publisher: Holiday House, Inc.
  • Publication date: 9/28/2008
  • Pages: 32
  • Sales rank: 1,409,804
  • Age range: 6 - 9 Years
  • Product dimensions: 8.60 (w) x 11.20 (h) x 0.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Eric A. Kimmel is professor emeritus at Portland State University and a celebrated children's author. He is a frequent lecturer and storyteller at schools and conferences. His previous collaboration with Katya Krenina, The Birds' Gift: A Ukrainian Easter Story, received the Storytelling World Award honor, and School Library Journal admired it as "filled with warmth." A native of Brooklyn, New York, Mr. Kimmel now lives in Oregon.

Katya Krenina is a full-time children's book illustrator. She has collaborated with Eric A. Kimmel on a number of books, including The Castle of the Cats, which School Library Journal praised as "a winner." Raised in Lvov, Ukraine, Ms. Krenina now resides in New York.

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