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A Sack Full of Feathers

A Sack Full of Feathers

4.0 1
by Debby Waldman, Cindy Revell (Illustrator)

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Yankel loves to tell stories, as long as they are someone else's. He does not see the hurt that his stories cause, the way they spread and change. Then the rabbi hands him a bag of feathers and tells him to place one on every doorstep in the village. Yankel is changed by what happens and finds himself with his best story yet, one of his very own.


Yankel loves to tell stories, as long as they are someone else's. He does not see the hurt that his stories cause, the way they spread and change. Then the rabbi hands him a bag of feathers and tells him to place one on every doorstep in the village. Yankel is changed by what happens and finds himself with his best story yet, one of his very own.

Editorial Reviews

"The fun in this retelling of a Jewish folktale is not in the lesson, but in the setting, the people, and the stories they tell."
Jewish Book World
"The paintings are colorful and joyous, indicative of the joy of the 'old country'...This tale sticks with the familiar format of other Jewish folktales, with a lesson that even young children can understand."
CM Magazine
"Waldman uses rich language which brings life to the story…Children will enjoy this story as a read-aloud."
Multicultural Review
"A valuable addition to any library, this book is highly recommended to people of all ages and walks of life."
The Jewish Independent
"Its moral and drawings are first class.
Publishers's Weekly
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Publishers Weekly
A boy fond of spreading gossip and rumors "other people's stories" witnesses the ripple effects of his actions in this entertaining, if somewhat lengthy, retelling of a Jewish folktale. Whenever he overhears a snippet of conversation or observes villagers engaging in any activity he deems interesting, Yankel can't wait to tell his friends, embellishing the anecdotes to make them even livelier. This practice results in lots of half-truths and potentially harmful information floating around town. Luckily, the local rabbi has been watching Yankel, and has a creative way to help him see the error of his ways. It involves delivering feathers to every doorstep, and then trying to collect them again. (This plot thread will be familiar to those who have read Mr. Peabody's Apples by Madonna, illus. by Loren Long.) Waldman's text retains all the hallmarks of a traditional tale, but the real spark here is Revell's chipper artwork. Zippy page borders and spot illustrations with unusual shapes are among the design elements that give her textured acrylics some oomph. A cast of (mostly) spotted cats and a jaunty Yankel springing through the pages number among the memorable character depictions. Ages 4-8. (Sept.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature - Ken Marantz
The wisdom in this Jewish folktale offers a lesson for those who thoughtlessly pass along wicked gossip. In the village of Olkinik, young Yankel takes great pleasure in repeating the stories he overhears, not pausing to check out the truth. The tales cause pain to many. After observing the trouble Yankel causes, the rabbi gives him a task. He must put a feather on the doorstep of each house in the village. When he has finished, the rabbi sends him to collect and bring back the feathers. Of course, they have all blown away, as the tired boy reports to the rabbi. "And so it is with the stories," the rabbi tells him. "You cannot take it back...make sure the next story you tell is your own." There is a folk-like quality to Revell's neat acrylic village scenes; the characters with their oversize, doll-like heads are a bit like cartoons. Some illustrations are framed in colorful, curving ribbons, while other vignettes have a similar shape. The gray bearded rabbi looks as wise as he should; Yankel's emotions are clear from his expressive face; the village cats are properly imperious. The lighthearted tale still clearly provides a moral.
School Library Journal
K-Gr 3
When the rabbi overhears Yankel spreading damaging rumors, he gives the boy a sack of feathers, instructing him to place one feather on the doorstep of each house in their village. When the child reports back to the rabbi, he's told to collect the feathers-an impossibility that illustrates the uncontrollable nature of gossip. Animated acrylic artwork amplifies the Eastern European shtetl setting of this folktale. Waldman's decision to use a boy as the careless blabbermouth instead of the customary old yenta may give this cautionary tale more immediacy for children than Joan Rothenberg's Yettele's Feathers (Hyperion, 1995). The flavor of the straightforward language, however, has little of the zesty humor that gives Rothenberg's picture book its sparkle.
—Miriam Lang BudinCopyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

Product Details

Orca Book Publishers
Publication date:
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
10.00(w) x 10.00(h) x 0.12(d)
AD690L (what's this?)
Age Range:
4 - 8 Years

Read an Excerpt

"I never saw a feather," Levi said. "If you wanted me to have a feather, why didn't you knock on the door and hand it to me?"

"The rabbi told me to leave it on your doorstep," Yankel explained.

"Why on my doorstep? What's this about a feather?"

"Not just your doorstep. Everyone's doorstep. I don't know why, but the rabbi said to do it, so I must. And if your feather is gone, then I must go too, for I have many feathers to find before the sun sets."

Meet the Author

Debby Waldman's is the author of a number of children's books based on Jewish folktales, including A Sack Full of Feathers, which was named a 2007 Best Book for Kids and Teens by the Canadian Children's Book Centre, and Clever Rachel, declared by Resource Links to be one of the year's best for 2009. She is also the co-author of two books for parents of children who are hard of hearing. She lives in Edmonton, Alberta. More information, visit www.debbywaldman.com.

Cindy Revell’s illustrations have been used on billboards, wine bottles, magazines and numerous children’s books all over North America. In 2001, Cindy was nominated for a Governor General’s Literary Award for children’s book illustration. She lives in Edmonton, Alberta. For more information, visit www.cindyrevell.com. Follow her on Twitter @cindyrev.

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Sack Full of Feathers 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
TeensReadToo More than 1 year ago
Yankel Liebovich has a very bad habit. Since his father owns the village store in Olkinik, he hears all kinds of stories every day. Unfortunately, Yankel doesn't usually hang around to hear the end of the tale. No, what Yankel hears are things that he knows the other school children will find funny, interesting, or horrifying--and those are the stories that Yankel tells daily.

He likes to brag about the fight between two women who were arguing over a piece of fabric at the store. "She's mean!" the other children comment. He likes to tell about how the baker used salt instead of sugar in his baked goods. "I'll never eat there again!" the other children say. For Yankel, finding a good story to share is more important than anything else; more important, perhaps, than the truth.

When the Rabbi sends Yankel on a mission to leave a feather at every home in the village, he does so without many questions. But when the Rabbi sends him back to those same homes, again, to retrieve that same feather, Yankel realizes the impossibility of his task. So, too, is it impossible to take back the stories that he likes to spread around Olkinik.

This is a great folktale that tells a very important lesson, although it might be one that is hard for younger children to understand at first. Once they truly grasp what gossip is, though, and how it can harm other people, they will learn, just like Yankel, that the only stories you should tell are your own.