Something from Nothing

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
When Joseph was a baby, his grandfather made him a shimmering blue blanket adorned with the moon and stars. As the boy grows and the blanket wears out, the old tailor recycles it, in succession fashioning a jacket, a vest, a tie and, finally, a cloth-covered button. But when Joseph loses the button, even his grandfather cannot make something from nothing. With its judicious repetition and internal rhymes, this thoughtfully presented Jewish folktale will captivate readers right through the ending, in which the boy discovers one last incarnation for his beloved keepsake. Although her renderings of human faces border on cartoonishness, Gilman's ( The Wonderful Pigs of Jillian Jiggs ) oil-glazed tempera paintings suggest the vivid world of Joseph's shtetl, with full-page cutaway illustrations recording the multileveled activity in Joseph's house. In an imaginative visual stroke, the bottom of each spread features the beneath-the-floorboards doings of a family of mice whose domestic life--from new births to Sabbath dinners to the outfitting of their entire home in discarded swatches of the blue blanket--winsomely mirrors Joseph's own. Ages 5-11. (Oct.)
Children's Literature - Jan Lieberman
This is a traditional Jewish folktale retold with style and child appeal. Joseph's baby blanket, made by his grandfather, is transformed into ever smaller items till nothing remains but the story itself. A secondary story appears visually, at the bottom of each page depicting a mouse family who use grandfather' scraps to make their own apparel. When Joseph attends Hebrew school, so do these 'Jewish' mice. The charm of the illustrations make this a fresh approach to a familiar tale.
School Library Journal
PreS-Gr 3-This tale drawn from Jewish folklore has been told in many variations, but never so richly. It is a story of relationships, trust, transformations, and optimism, as well as being an entre to Jewish history in Eastern Europe of the 19th-20th century. Grandpa trims away the worn parts of Joseph's baby blanket and uses it to make him a jacket in the first of its many transformations into ever smaller items: a vest, a tie, a handkerchief, and a button as each item in turn becomes worn. When the button is lost, Joseph declares: "`There is just enough material here to make...a wonderful story!'" The story is told with repetitive, rhythmic phrases that children will soon anticipate and join in on. Using colored pencils, watercolors, and possibly other media, Gilman has created a shtetl in a book. Each oversized wood-framed page draws readers closely into the town or into Joseph's house and also below its floor where the mice use each discarded scrap to furnish their own snug home. Shades of warm brown, rust, and gold, accented with bright blue, lend a feeling of nostalgia. Gilman's art is subtle with painterly shading, a skillful use of light and dark, and expressive line. Each page is beautifully composed. While some of the folk characters' expressions are exaggerated, this is, after all, supposed to be funny.- Marcia Posner, Federation of New York and the Jewish Book Council, New York City
Stephanie Zvirin
In this lively adaptation of a folk tale, Gilman creates a close-knit Jewish community in which nothing goes to waste. The wonderful baby blanket Grandpa made for Joseph has begun to wear out. When Grandpa takes a look at it, he finds "just enough material here to make . . ." something smaller. First, he makes a jacket. When that wears out, he makes a vest, then a tie, and so on. Finally, there is only enough fabric remaining to cover a button. When Joseph loses his button, he is heartbroken until he realizes that there is "just enough material here to make . . ." one more thing--a good story. Framed by borders that look like wooden beams, busy street scenes and cutaway interiors offer lots of old-world atmosphere. The borders also set off a complementary picture story about a mouse family living beneath the floor of Grandpa's home. Children will readily follow the tiny creatures' escapades and appreciate their ingenuity in turning scraps from Joseph's blanket to their own advantage. The red-gold tones of the background and the rich browns in the artwork lend a feeling of warmth that perfectly replicates the flavor of the sweet, funny tale.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780590472807
  • Publisher: Scholastic, Inc.
  • Publication date: 10/28/1993
  • Series: Fiction Picture Book Series
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 32
  • Sales rank: 85,581
  • Age range: 8 - 12 Years
  • Product dimensions: 9.09 (w) x 11.57 (h) x 0.45 (d)

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted February 17, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Good Stewardship

    This is an amazing, heart-warming tale for the ages. It touches on familial love, making memories, using your talents, hope, and respect. The tale within a tale involving the mice is absolutely adorable. I have recommended this book more times than I can remember. It would be a wonderful addition to your family library or a well-loved gift.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 16, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

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