Sholom's Treasure: How Sholom Aleichem Became a Writer

Sholom's Treasure: How Sholom Aleichem Became a Writer

by Erica Silverman, Mordicai Gerstein
     
 

The boy whose stories became Fiddler on the Roof

Sholom Aleichem's favorite childhood memory may have been listening as his father read stories aloud on Saturday nights and a roomful of adults burst out laughing. Sholom wanted to make people laugh, too. At school he became the class clown. At home he imitated even his pious grandmother. But Sholom was also

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Overview

The boy whose stories became Fiddler on the Roof

Sholom Aleichem's favorite childhood memory may have been listening as his father read stories aloud on Saturday nights and a roomful of adults burst out laughing. Sholom wanted to make people laugh, too. At school he became the class clown. At home he imitated even his pious grandmother. But Sholom was also thoughtful. In Russia in the 1800s, life was especially difficult for Jews, and Sholom longed to help his father by finding a legendary hidden treasure. It turned out that Sholom Aleichem's destiny was to give his father a different kind of treasure - one of words and tales that to this day bring laughter to readers around the world.

This taut, focused biography of the young Sholom Aleichem is animated with the artist's quick, brilliant line and richly toned watercolors.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"The story of this young imp, who was determined to do his father proud, will strike a chord with many. Silverman keeps her focus on the things about Aleichem's life that will appeal most to young readers. As in Aleichem's own stories, there's a universality here that transcends the borders of time and place." — Starred, Booklist

"Silverman's text moves quickly, using dialogue adapted from Aleichem's own memoir. Gerstein's loose lines and bright colors bristle with energy and humor, presenting a wide-eyed boy who nevertheless possesses a wicked sense of fun. Most in the audience...will identify with the child's dual wishes to please his father and excel." — Kirkus Reviews

"Sholom Aleichem's own story is told here with the wit and compassion for which he was himself known. The heartiness of the text...gives this biography an attractive warmth. Heavy shading and touches of white point up such focal points as faces and eyes...intensifying the viewer's emotional involvement in the story." - The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

"Mischievous Sholom's spirited personality comes alive both in Gerstein's drawings and Silverman's fluent text. An author's note, an afterward, and a bibliography round out this engaging portrait." - The Horn Book

"Silverman and Caldecott Medalist Gerstein make an ideal pairing. Silverman's accessible prose keeps a narrative dense with incidents and people moving along briskly. Gerstein's fluid, exuberant pen-and-ink and watercolor wash illustrations...literally illuminate the story." — Publishers Weekly

"Enchanting...a seamless collaboration." — Starred, School Library Journal

"This book underscores the power of reading and writing as a way of giving laughter, joy, and treasures to the world." — Reading Teacher

Children's Literature
While this writer is probably unfamiliar to most children, Silverman wisely focuses her biography on his early life, providing a window on a distant culture and time. From the first pages, Sholom's admiration for his father's gift to make people laugh is clear, as well as his wish to make his father proud of him. Reciting and memorizing in a freezing cold school room, bright, bored Sholom soon turns into class clown. Laughter and dreams of his earlier years become shrouded by poverty, moving, his mother's death, and a mocking stepmother who calls him Pupik, or bellybutton. But his love of words, laughter, and need for his father's approval starts Sholom's career as a writer and he draws on all he has learned in his formative years. 2005, Farrar Strauss and Giroux, Ages 8 to 12.
—Susie Wilde
School Library Journal
Gr 1-4-This enchanting picture-book biography is an affectionate ode to the iconic Yiddish writer, presenting his early life as a series of stories laced with both humor and pathos. One of 12 children growing up in a small Russian village in the mid-19th century, young Sholom watched intently as his beloved father charmed the neighbors with humorous tales. The youth concluded that laughter and stories had the power to overcome worry and bring genuine happiness to the listener. Bored with his lessons and looking to create his own laughter, Sholom became the class clown, and dreamed of the treasures he could bestow upon his parents, whose life in the shtetl grew increasingly difficult. Yet even the displacement of his family and the death of his mother from cholera could not dampen Sholom's interest in the power of words. He used both his keen sense of observation and his notable intellect to accumulate experiential treasures that later informed his writing, including a fascinating array of insults thrown at him by his shrewish stepmother. Silverman's text combines a storyteller's narrative with dialogue based on Aleichem's own words, resulting in a biography that often reads like a folktale. Gerstein's energetic watercolor-and-ink illustrations bubble over with humor as the mischievous young Sholom mimics and mocks, his expressive face a constantly changing barometer of life's ups and downs. The result is a seamless collaboration that presents not only the life, but also the world, of a literary giant.-Teri Markson, Stephen S. Wise Temple Elementary School, Los Angeles Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A picture-book biography of Sholom Aleichem focuses not on his work as an adult, but on how the child grew to become the writer. Young Sholom Rabinowitz admires his father's ability to make others laugh, and quickly learns that he shares it-though it frequently gets him into trouble. As the family moves from a shtetl to a larger town, accumulating 12 children, and a stepmother after Sholom's mother dies, the child hones his talents of mimicry and wordplay, collecting his stepmother's colorful insults and beginning to write on his own. Silverman's text moves quickly, using dialogue adapted from Aleichem's own memoir and focusing on Sholom's desire to make his father proud-to present him with a treasure. Gerstein's loose lines and bright colors bristle with energy and humor, presenting a wide-eyed boy who nevertheless possesses a wicked sense of fun, as he assumes the characters of those around him-who will later take on literary life in his stories. Although most in the audience will be unfamiliar with Aleichem, they will identify with the child's dual wishes to please his father and to excel. (author's note, afterword, sources) (Picture book/biography. 5-10)

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780374380557
Publisher:
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication date:
03/11/2005
Edition description:
First Edition
Pages:
40
Product dimensions:
7.90(w) x 10.78(h) x 0.37(d)
Lexile:
660L (what's this?)
Age Range:
6 - 10 Years

Meet the Author

Erica Silverman is the author of Raisel's Riddle, illustrated by Susan Gaber. She lives in Los Angeles, California.

 

Mordicai Gerstein is the author and illustrator of The Man Who Walked Between the Towers, winner of the Caldecott Medal, and has had four books named New York Times Best Illustrated Books of the Year. He lives in Westhampton, Massachusetts.

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