The Secret Shofar of Barcelona

The Secret Shofar of Barcelona

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by Jacqueline Dembar Greene, Douglas Chayka
     
 

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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Judy Silverman
This is a very well-thought-out story for slightly older picture book readers. The introduction explains a good deal of what was going on in Span in 1492 (and beyond), and is a very necessary part of the story. And the author's end note gives us a definite time frame—the late 1500s. Don Fernando, the Duke's official musician, has been commissioned to compose a new concerto in celebration of Spain's new colonies. Don Fernando's son Rafael, upon learning that his father's music will include the sounds of Native American instruments, suggests that since it is the evening of Rosh Hashanah, an appropriate addition would involve adding the sounds of the shofar! This could be extremely dangerous, since as far as the authorities know there are no Jews in Spain. But Rafael convinces his father that "hiding something in plain sight" would actually work. And so it does—the Duke is fascinated by the strange instruments and actually tries to blow the shofar! The lovely illustrations take us right into Barcelona. The only objection that I see is on the cover—Rafael is shown carrying the shofar in a public square, and he would never do that—it would be visible to everyone, and even if most of the population did not know what it was, the Inquisition certainly would, and the Inquisition was everywhere. Recommended. Reviewer: Judy Silverman
School Library Journal
Gr 2–5—Don Fernando is a converso, a Jew who practices his religion secretly during the time of the Inquisition. He is also a respected composer, and he writes a symphony to celebrate Spain's colonies in the New World using Native American instruments. His son convinces him to include a shofar among the deer-toe rattles and leather drums so that the conversos can hear the traditional sound of the ram's horn on the Jewish New Year, which coincides with the concert. The dangerous plan proves successful: the Duke loves the symphony, and Spain's secret Jews retain an ancient tradition. Based on a legend, this intriguing slice of converso life offers a thoughtful hero and a suspenseful plot. The warm, opaque paintings are expressive and create a strong sense of place. Although the religious significance of the shofar is never explained, the story conveys its emotional pull for Jewish listeners. Themes of cultural identity and empowerment under oppression will appeal to readers of all backgrounds.—Heidi Estrin, Feldman Children's Library at Congregation B'nai Israel, Boca Raton, FL
Kirkus Reviews
Among Spain's secret Jews-conversos-were well-educated merchants and professionals who worked and lived within the medieval Catholic society yet found ways to clandestinely practice their forbidden, ancient faith. When Don Fernando, the conductor of Barcelona's Royal Orchestra, himself a converso, plans a new concert for the nobility, he devises a way to include a piece sporting exotic instruments made by the natives from the New World. It is fall and just in time for Rosh Hashanah, so with son Rafael's bold complicity, the shofar, or ram's horn, is included to sound the four distinct notes that usher in the Jewish New Year. Basing her tale on legend, Greene provides a smooth, suspenseful view into a rarely depicted portion of Jewish history, when Jews led a dual life and managed to maintain their Judaic rituals by blending in or hiding their beliefs and traditions, sometimes in plain sight. Chayka's deep, opaque paintings reflect an upper-class, dark-haired Iberian society juxtaposed with the Judaic rituals of the Rosh Hashanah meal. (introductory, author's notes) (Picture book. 6-10)

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780822599449
Publisher:
Kar-Ben Publishing
Publication date:
09/28/2009
Series:
High Holidays Series
Pages:
32
Product dimensions:
7.90(w) x 10.30(h) x 0.10(d)
Lexile:
760L (what's this?)
Age Range:
6 - 9 Years

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