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Oy, Feh, So?

Oy, Feh, So?

by Cary Fagan, Gary Clement (Illustrator)

Every Sunday Aunt Essy, Aunt Chanah, and Uncle Sam drive up in the old Lincoln for the afternoon. They plop themselves down in the living room, and no matter what anyone says their response is always the same — “Oy,” “Feh,” “So?” One afternoon the three children try to provoke a different reaction. They fake a robbery,


Every Sunday Aunt Essy, Aunt Chanah, and Uncle Sam drive up in the old Lincoln for the afternoon. They plop themselves down in the living room, and no matter what anyone says their response is always the same — “Oy,” “Feh,” “So?” One afternoon the three children try to provoke a different reaction. They fake a robbery, produce a terrifying child-eating dragon, and pretend to be kidnapped by space invaders, but their aunts and uncle remain unimpressed. In exasperation the children take to mocking them, and soon they are all laughing so hard they’re practically crying. Cary Fagan’s characteristically dry humor and Gary Clement’s witty illustrations perfectly depict a family with loveable quirks in this story that is sure to become a favorite.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Every Sunday, it’s the same story: the narrator’s three crotchety relatives come over, plop down on the furniture, and respond to everything with the dismissive Yiddish interjections “Oy” (Aunt Essy), “Feh” (Aunt Chanah), and “So?” (Uncle Sam). Nothing the narrator and his siblings do fazes—or engages—them. (“Feh,” says Aunt Chanah when the kids pretend to be a dragon and its victim. “I never liked pets.”) Frustrated, the kids begin imitating their elders, but instead of being offended, the relatives burst out laughing and regale their niece and nephews with stories about the olden days. Channeling E.M. Forster by way of the Borscht Belt, Fagan and Clement (who previously teamed up on Ten Old Men and a Mouse) offer a very funny and highly performable plea for the generations to “Only connect.” Making the most of the book’s horizontal format, Clement portrays a living room under siege by three master kvetchers, which makes their blossoming into raconteurs all the more rewarding. While the story will resonate most with Jewish audiences, any readers with difficult older relatives should find comic common ground. Ages 4–8. (Apr.)
From the Publisher
Praise for Book of Big Brothers:
“. . . will make readers giggle with delight.” — School Library Journal
Children's Literature - Phyllis Kennemer
The three children in the family dread Sundays when their relatives come to visit. The uncle and two aunts are negative and boring, always saying the same things: "Oy" from Aunt Essy, "Feh" from Aunt Chanah, and "So" from Uncle Sam. One Sunday, the kids decide they have had enough. They are going to get these old folks to say something else. First, they stage a robbery with masks and wooden swords. Then a cardboard dragon attempts to eat one of the brothers. The elders continue with their monosyllabic conversation as the children are captured by space invaders. In desperation, one boy grabs some yarn and plops it on his head to resemble Aunt Essy and starts screaming, "Oy, oy, oy." The sister puts on toy glasses like Aunt Chanah's as she yells, "Feh, feh, feh." The brother sticks a pillow under his shirt in an imitation of Uncle Sam's large belly and shouts, "So? So? So?" The parents are flabbergasted, but the old folks are amused. After sharing a good laugh, the aunts and uncle tell stories of their younger days. The kids are sorry to see them go. The colorful cartoon-like illustrations capture the grouchiness of the elders, the frustration of the children, and the joy of the change. A fun choice for story time. Reviewer: Phyllis Kennemer, Ph.D.
School Library Journal
Gr 2–5—Aunt Essy, Aunt Chanah, and Uncle Sam visit each Sunday to sit on the couch and complain. They preface their negative comments with, "Oy," "Feh," and "So?" Exasperated, the kids stage riotous scenarios in the living room, from armed robbery to aliens landing, only to get the same tepid responses. When the siblings resort to mimicking their elders, they finally break through their apathy by making them laugh. Cheered up at last, the aunts and uncle share stories and bond with the younger generation. Readers may enjoy the increasing drama of the children's actions and the silliness of the adults' repeated complaints. However, it is the "Woody Allen generation" that will appreciate this story most fully, being familiar with the vocabulary and attitudes of Yiddish-speaking elders. The sketchy cartoons of the homely family suit the story; dress style and Uncle Sam's huge Lincoln Continental give it a late-20th-century atmosphere. The catchphrases are emphasized by large speech bubbles. One illustration feels out of place: when the kids stage a dragon attack, a live dragon is depicted, while the other scenarios are identifiably imaginary. A strong candidate for intergenerational reading programs or Jewish collections, this book may be considered an additional purchase elsewhere.—Heidi Estrin, Congregation B'nai Israel, Boca Raton, FL
Kirkus Reviews
Weekly Sunday visits from their two aunts and one uncle are so disagreeable that three children take steps to alter the atmosphere through some harmlessly exaggerated imitation. Each Sunday afternoon the family guests arrive, heavily plop themselves on the living room furniture, and make negative, complaining and resigned statements. "Oy," says Aunt Essy. "Feh," says Aunt Chanah. "So?" says Uncle Sam. "That was all they ever said!" Despite the children's parents' attempts to make pleasant conversation or the children's enthusiastic play-acting performed for the guests, the reaction is always the same uncongenial three words. Ink-and-watercolor illustrations depict Essy, Chanah and Sam with unflattering caricatures of stereotypical adult Jewish characters, with clownishly large noses, slouchy, overweight bodies and unsmiling faces. In exasperation, the children each take a role and comically mimic their aunts' and uncle's behavior, forcing laughter and recognition. This mishpocheh now redeems itself with a newfound willingness to tell family stories and loving childhood memories; the palette here modulates from muted tones to bright, sunny colors. While the amusing scenario may prove to be more a nostalgia trip for adult readers than something today's kids will immediately recognize, they will appreciate the overall sentiment even if they miss the Yiddish essence. Nu? (Picture book. 5-7)

Product Details

Groundwood Books
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
10.20(w) x 8.10(h) x 0.50(d)
AD460L (what's this?)
Age Range:
4 - 8 Years

Meet the Author

Cary Fagan is an award-winning children’s author who is known for his timeless, quirky and deceptively simple stories that reveal complex and universal themes. He lives in Toronto.

Gary Clement is an award-winning author and illustrator of children’s books and the editorial cartoonist for the National Post. He lives in Toronto.

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