The Angel's Mistake: Stories of Chelm

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Overview

A gem of a legend from Jewish lore

There's never been another town like Chelm, where the people wore their hats upside down to keep them dry when it rained and went barefoot in the snow so their shoes would not get wet. Here is an irresistibly funny picture book about the famous town where only fools lived.

Explains how a botched mission by two angels created the town of fools known as Chelm.

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1997-04-01 Hardcover New Oversized hardback book, dust jacket. 1st printing! #378. FAST shipping, FREE delivery confirmation and online tracking. Thank you!

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Overview

A gem of a legend from Jewish lore

There's never been another town like Chelm, where the people wore their hats upside down to keep them dry when it rained and went barefoot in the snow so their shoes would not get wet. Here is an irresistibly funny picture book about the famous town where only fools lived.

Explains how a botched mission by two angels created the town of fools known as Chelm.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Cahners\\Publishers_Weekly
The foolishness of the people of Chelm, a favorite subject of Yiddish folktales, offers choice material for Prose and Podwal, previously paired for Dybbuk. Prose's loose story line first establishes the villagers' silliness, then relates how, after burning down the town in an attempt to provide some light, the people scatter. She adopts a droll, matter-of-fact tone to describe the people's ridiculous logic: for example, after a passerby suggests that it would be easier to roll a rock down a mountain than to carry it, "they slowly, slowly carried the rock all the way back up to the mountaintop, and this time they let it roll." Her understated approach finds its counterpoint in Podwal's warm and sunny folk sensibility. His lighthearted, appealingly askew art envisions the houses of Chelm as a kaleidoscope of muted blue and green, mustard yellow, pink and mauve shapes; other pictures pair hot pink and apple green, or turquoise with orange and yellow. A tumble of images includes figures in traditional Eastern European Jewish clothing, motifs from religious art and familiar objects like menorahs, but the general framework is ethnic, not religious, and accessible to a wide readership. An intriguing contrast to Margot Zemach's and Steven Sanfield's Eastern European Jewish folktale adaptations.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The foolishness of the people of Chelm, a favorite subject of Yiddish folktales, offers choice material for Prose and Podwal, previously paired for Dybbuk. Prose's loose story line first establishes the villagers' silliness, then relates how, after burning down the town in an attempt to provide some light, the people scatter. She adopts a droll, matter-of-fact tone to describe the people's ridiculous logic: for example, after a passerby suggests that it would be easier to roll a rock down a mountain than to carry it, "they slowly, slowly carried the rock all the way back up to the mountaintop, and this time they let it roll." Her understated approach finds its counterpoint in Podwal's warm and sunny folk sensibility. His lighthearted, appealingly askew art envisions the houses of Chelm as a kaleidoscope of muted blue and green, mustard yellow, pink and mauve shapes; other pictures pair hot pink and apple green, or turquoise with orange and yellow. A tumble of images includes figures in traditional Eastern European Jewish clothing, motifs from religious art and familiar objects like menorahs, but the general framework is ethnic, not religious, and accessible to a wide readership. An intriguing contrast to Margot Zemach's and Steven Sanfield's Eastern European Jewish folktale adaptations. Ages 5-up. (Apr.)
School Library Journal
Gr 1-3Anecdotal episodes of life in the fabled village of Chelm are told in one and two sentence paragraphs using modern language that retains no Yiddish flavoring or inflection. What was a barrel of borsht in Solomon Simon's The Wise Men of Helm (Behrman, 1942) becomes a water barrel. The humorous ponderings and discussions of the village elders, so elemental to Eastern European Jewish life and so much a part of Isaac Bashevis Singer's stories, are nowhere in evidence. In fact, one is barely aware that these are Jewish stories beyond the author's note and the mention of the Grand Rabbi. The origin of the town is the connecting thread between the title and the beginning and end of the story, but by simplifying the tales to reach a picture-book audience, the details and descriptions of daily life are lost. There is a subtle difference between calling Chelmites fools and calling them stupid. Fools, as depicted by Simon and Singer, just can't seem to make a sensible decision even though their hearts are in the right place while stupid, as used so often in this book, connotes a lack of intelligence. The gouache paintings are colorful but too indistinct to establish a proper sense of place.Susan Pine, New York Public Library
Kirkus Reviews
The team behind Dybbuk (1996) have collaborated on a winsome story set in the legendary town of Chelm, charting its origins to the angel carrying a bag of "stupid souls" and mistakenly spilling them all in one town. Prose recounts many of the exploits in which "the wise men and women . . . put their brilliant minds together and solve their problems." Whether it's going barefoot in the snow to keep their shoes from getting wet or wearing their hats upside down to keep them dry, the people of Chelm are full of ideas. A need to light up the night leads the townspeople to set a fire and to then call upon the firemen who smother the flames with logs. The town burns down and the fools of Chelm are disbursed, just as "the angels had intended." Podwal's sly yet strikingly beautiful gouache and colored-pencil paintings, using impressionistic brush strokes and skewed perspectives to render the travails of the fools, are a perfect foil for Prose's understated, humorous narrative. Families will find this is a savory treat for sharing.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780688149055
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 4/1/1997
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 24
  • Age range: 5 - 7 Years
  • Product dimensions: 8.83 (w) x 11.31 (h) x 0.43 (d)

Meet the Author

Francine Prose
Francine Prose
Known as much for her wit as she is for her eclecticism, Francine Prose is a true renaissance woman of the literary set. She has written essays, art and literary reviews, translations, children’s books, novellas, and short stories -- not to mention bitingly humorous novels like Bigfoot Dreams and Blue Angel.

Biography

When it comes to an author as eclectic as Francine Prose, it's difficult to find the unifying thread in her work. But, if one were to examine her entire oeuvre—from novels and short stories to essays and criticism—a love of reading would seem to be the animating force. That may not seem extraordinary, especially for a writer, but Prose is uncommonly passionate about the link between reading and writing. "I've always read," she confessed in a 1998 interview with Atlantic Unbound. "I started when I was four years old and just didn't stop…The only reason I wanted to be a writer was because I was such an avid reader." (In 2006, she produced an entire book on the subject—a nuts-and-bolts primer entitled Reading Like a Writer, in which she uses excerpts from classic and contemporary literature to illustrate her personal notions of literary excellence.)

If Prose is specific about the kind of writing she, herself, likes to read, she's equally voluble about what puts her off. She is particularly vexed by "obvious, tired clichĂ©s; lazy, ungrammatical writing; implausible plot turns." Unsurprisingly, all of these are notably absent in her own work. Even when she explores tried-and-true literary conventions—such as the illicit romantic relationship at the heart of her best known novel, Blue Angel—she livens them with wit and irony. She even borrowed her title from the famous Josef von Sternberg film dealing with a similar subject.

As biting and clever as she is, Prose cringes whenever her work is referred to as satire. She explained to Barnes & Noble.com, "Satirical to me means one-dimensional characters…whereas, I think of myself as a novelist who happens to be funny—who's writing characters that are as rounded and artfully developed as the writers of tragic novels."

Prose's assessment of her own work is pretty accurate. Although her subject matter is often ripe for satire (religious fanaticism in Household Saints, tabloid journalism in Bigfoot Dreams, upper-class pretensions in Primitive People), etc.), she takes care to invest her characters with humanity and approaches them with respect. "I really do love my characters," she says, "but I feel that I want to take a very hard look at them. I don't find them guilty of anything I'm not guilty of myself."

Best known for her fiction, Prose has also written literary criticism for The New York Times, art criticism for The Wall Street Journal, and children's books based on Jewish folklore, all of it infused with her alchemic blend of humor, insight,and intelligence.

Good To Know

Prose rarely wastes an idea. In Blue Angel, the novel that the character Angela is writing is actually a discarded novel that Prose started before stopping because, in her own words, "it seemed so juvenile to me."

While she once had no problem slamming a book in one of her literary critiques, these days Prose has resolved to only review books that she actually likes. The ones that don't adhere to her high standards are simply returned to the senders.

Prose's novel Household Saints was adapted into an excellent film starring Tracey Ullman, Vincent D'Onofrio, and Lili Taylor in 1993.

Another novel, The Glorious Ones, was adapted into a musical.

In 2002, Prose published The Lives of the Muses, an intriguing hybrid of biography, philosophy, and gender studies that examines nine women who inspired famous artists and thinkers—from John Lennon's wife Yoko Ono to Alice Liddell, the child who enchanted Lewis Carroll.

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    1. Hometown:
      New York, New York
    1. Date of Birth:
      April 1, 1947
    2. Place of Birth:
      Brooklyn, New York
    1. Education:
      B.A., Radcliffe College, 1968

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 29, 2000

    I really like this book

    This book is really funny and full of excitement.

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