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The Golem: A Version

The Golem: A Version

5.0 1
by Barbara Rogasky, Trina Schart Hyman (Illustrator)
The Golem--a creature born of clay that looks like a man but is not a man, that is not exactly alive but neither is he dead. Barbara Rogasky's version of the old Jewish tale is gripping and suspenseful.


The Golem--a creature born of clay that looks like a man but is not a man, that is not exactly alive but neither is he dead. Barbara Rogasky's version of the old Jewish tale is gripping and suspenseful.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Working with the Jewish legend that also inspired David Wisniewski's new picture book (reviewed p. 83) and a novel-length retelling by Isaac Bashevis Singer (see p. 85), Rogasky (Smoke and Ashes: The Story of the Holocaust) goes beyond the story of the Golem's creation and mission in combating the anti-Semitism of 16th-century Prague to weave in folklore about his doings, both antic and tragic. While she is unflinching in her portraits of the degrading poverty and false accusations suffered by the Jews, Rogasky also mixes in a few broadly comic elements, as in a chapter in which the Golem goes to market and returns with an entire stall, vendor and all. Rabbi Loew, a model of eloquence in the Wisniewski version, here speaks with a folksy inflection: "What's to be afraid?" he says to his wife, who is startled at the sight of the Golem. For the most part, the tone is somber: "The story here is one of blood and murder. Hatred is its root. In hatred there is evil, and in evil there is madness." Caldecott Medalist Hyman (St. George and the Dragon) makes the monstrous Golem and the aged rabbi almost as romantic as fairy tale princesses. Her inky watercolors lend depth to a sprawling tale that vacillates somewhat unsuccessfully between horror and humor, but which admirably captures the strange slavishness of the Golem and the violent climate of a black age. Ages 12-up. (Oct.)
Children's Literature - Jan Lieberman
The creation of a monster who looks like a man but is not a man and who responds only to the commands of its creator, is common in literature. Barbara Rogasky masterfully retells the story of the Golem. It was a time when such vile lies about the Jews were being spread that Rabbi Loew of Prague had to devise a way to protect the community. He created a man of clay, the Golem, who succeeds in forcing the evil men to admit their lies. The Rabbi soon realizes that the Golem, if not controlled properly, can undo the good he has just accomplished. Drastic action must be taken. Each episode is enhanced by Hyman's paintings that breathe life into the characters and recreate the ambience of 16th century Prague. A dramatic and powerful story that should be read aloud for full effect. Take time to discuss the evil effects of lies to instill fear and hatred.
School Library Journal - School Library Journal
Gr 4 UpLike Isaac Bashevis Singer, Rogasky has novelized the legend of the golema monster created of claywho, under the guidance of the chief rabbi of Prague, rescued the Jews from persecution by anti-Semitic Christians in the late 16th century. Rogasky's strong storytelling skills are evident as she first recounts anecdotes relating the rabbi's problem-solving skills, and then tells of a priest whose hatred of the Jews caused him to murder a Christian child in order to implicate the Jewish community in her death and spread the Blood Libel. The rabbi's solution to this vicious crime results in the capture and imprisonment of the evil priest and an end to the wrongful accusations. Hyman's colorful, fairy tale-like illustrations bring the story to life. The artist has included enough humorous detail in several of her painted scenes to lighten the heaviness of the major theme. In contrast, Uri Shulevitz's black-and-white illustrations perfectly capture the more somber tone of Singer's Golem (Farrar, 1982; o.p.). While the legend is adult-oriented by virtue of both its concept and historical roots, Rogasky and Singer both recount it on a child's level. The peculiar nature of the tale and its unusual setting will probably prevent its universal appeal. The book will be best appreciated in Jewish secular schools and in homes where its historical context is familiar.Susan Scheps, Shaker Heights Public Library, OH
Kirkus Reviews
The Golem walks the streets again, in the crafty conjuring of Rogasky (Smoke and Ashes, 1988) and the evocative illustrations of Hyman.

The novel, for those expecting a fairy tale, packs plenty of dramatic punch: Rogasky spares none of the blood or violence the Golem wrought in the defense of the Jews and while the stories may be metaphorical, she brackets them against the real politics and living conditions of Jews in 16th-century Prague. According to legend, Rabbi Judah Loew, a wise and loving man, created the Golem to protect his neighbors from the dangers of religious prosecution and the bloodshed of pogroms. The Golem proved his worth, speechlessly warning the Jews not to eat poisoned matzoh on the eve of Passover and dragging wrongdoers to the police station. Eventually, his actions helped force the royal decree that made the blood libel against the Jews illegal. Rogasky's focus on such crimes as the blood libel, which claimed that Jews spilled human blood as part of their worship, lays bare the irrationality and danger of prejudice; however, she offers readers no healing balm that might lead to increased tolerance (save, perhaps, for the cardinal, a friend of the rabbi despite their religious differences, and one of the book's few good Christians). The art—full-page and spot illustrations in full color—lends not only a sense of place and excitement, but mythic grandeur as well.

Product Details

Holiday House, Inc.
Publication date:
Edition description:
1st ed
Product dimensions:
5.72(w) x 9.58(h) x 0.56(d)
Age Range:
12 - 14 Years

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The Golem: A Version 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
When I first started to read the stories to my kids (5 and 9), I thought they would find them a bit too morbid. To the contrary, they were fascinated by the stories (especially the 5 year old) and had me read them over again and again. Go figure.