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The Schmutzy Family

The Schmutzy Family

5.0 1
by Paul Meisel (Illustrator), Madelyn Rosenberg

In this lively celebration of Jewish traditions, a family must balance giving their children the freedom to make a mess and having a tidy home for Shabbos.
On Sunday the Schmutzys drag in dirt from the malodorous Feldman Swamp. On Monday they make mud pies, and on Tuesday they smear spaghetti sauce.
So it goes until Friday morning, when it’s time to be


In this lively celebration of Jewish traditions, a family must balance giving their children the freedom to make a mess and having a tidy home for Shabbos.
On Sunday the Schmutzys drag in dirt from the malodorous Feldman Swamp. On Monday they make mud pies, and on Tuesday they smear spaghetti sauce.
So it goes until Friday morning, when it’s time to be not-so-schmutzy. The family members soap, scour, and shower. And on Friday night they are ready to celebrate
Shabbos with prayer, song, and supper.
A glossary defines Yiddish words and an author’s note explains Shabbos traditions.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Jewish mothers used to be famous for houses so clean you could eat off the floor, entire rooms cordoned off from family life, and furniture veritably shrink-wrapped in plastic slipcovers. The Jewish mother in this freshly imagined story, the freewheeling Mrs. Schumtzy, is far less finicky (the family’s name is based on the word schmutz, Yiddish for dirt). “hen they turned the sink into a natural habitat for frogs and other amphibians? It was Mama who plugged the drain,” writes debut author Rosenberg in crisp, reportorial prose. But when Friday morning comes, it’s a different story—at sundown, Shabbos (the Jewish Sabbath) will start, and being schmutzy is definitely not the way to greet this holy time of rest and reflection. Meisel’s (The Leprechaun Under the Bed) ink-and-watercolor cartooning cheerfully chronicles the family’s transformation from profane (which in this case involves a lot of mud, cow pies, and swamp critters) to sacred, and conveys so much joyousness and family happiness around Shabbos that most readers—even non-Jews—will agree that having to bathe, clean house, and dress up is well worth it. Ages 4–8. (Sept.)
Children's Literature - Carrie Hane Hung
Wading in Feldman Swamp, making mud pies, painting with tomato sauce, and other messy activities are a part of the Schmutzy family activities. Despite how grimy the playing gets, Mama Schmutzy does not mind one bit except on Friday when the children played in the cow pasture and came home smelly as well as dirty. The members of the Schmutzy family wash themselves up and they pitch in to clean the household. The children help Mama to make challah and prepare for the Sabbath. On Saturday, the family walks to the synagogue. When Sunday arrives, the family enjoys exploring the outdoors and the irresistible puddles of fun including Mama who is the first to jump in with a splash. In the illustrations, readers will see the Schmutzy children who love their exploration, creation, and playtime while Mama is calmly going about her household chores. On the cataloguing in publication page, there is a glossary of some terms used in the story. Children may enjoy the glimpse into the Schmutzy children's lives which features freedom of exploration, creativity, and fun. Reviewer: Carrie Hane Hung
School Library Journal
PreS-Gr 1—This delightful picture book chronicles a week in the life of the Schmutzy family, focusing on the mother and her six children. True to their name, the Schmutzys relish messiness, whether they're playing with mud pies or jam. Doting Mom-the star of the story-wades in the swamp with her brood and doesn't bat an eyelash at the sight of frogs in the sink or handprints on the wall. At the end of the sticky, sloppy week, the family scrubs the house and themselves for Shabbos dinner. Children of all backgrounds will relate to this story of preparing for a formal meal and all the restraint and self-control involved in a sit-down dinner. The dramatic contrast between the Schmutzys' everyday life and their Sabbath will invite discussions about the differences between "clean" and "dirty" and the time and place for each one. Readers will laugh at the antics of the children and their dog. Rosenberg's text is elegant, affectionate, and humorous. Meisel's cartoonlike watercolor-and-ink illustrations sprawl across the borderless pages, embodying the story's creative expansiveness. Children will enjoy picking out details not mentioned in the text, like raccoons and salamanders peeking out of corners. The glossary defines words like "schmutz" and "challah," but context clues make the vocabulary understandable to all. This book explores Jewish traditions in a unique and vibrant way, offering a loving portrait of a freewheeling family many readers will wish they had.—Jess deCourcy Hinds, Bard High School Early College, Queens, NY
Kirkus Reviews
The Schmutzy family, appropriately named for their carefree exploration of all things messy, cleans up perfectly at the end of each week for a proper Sabbath celebration. From Sunday until Thursday, Mama and Papa Schmutzy's brood of five play, create, and discover. They wade in "the malodorous Feldman Swamp" and bring an assortment of flora and fauna back. At home, they decorate their clothes with tomato sauce, enjoy their "blue period" with blueberries, gather earthworms in the vegetable garden and paint additional fruits on their pineapple wallpaper. Through it all, this modern Jewish Mama is unfazed, going about her motherly chores without a "tsk or tut." But on Friday morning, her Yiddish persona comes out as she exclaims, "Oy! Look at this dirt! You're FARSHTUNKEN, all of you! And it's nearly SHABBOS. We can't bring in the Sabbath smelling like COWS!" And so the clean-up begins, culminating in a wonderfully full Friday-night Shabbos dinner with an extended family of 12, followed by an early-morning Saturday walk to services. A combination of India ink, watercolor, acrylic, pencil and pastel artwork depicts the humorous chaos of a family that balances a live-and-let-live attitude with a weekly ritual and routine. Delightful and unpretentious in its approach to welcoming the Sabbath. (Picture book. 3-5)

Product Details

Holiday House, Inc.
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
10.10(w) x 10.10(h) x 0.60(d)
AD860L (what's this?)
Age Range:
4 - 7 Years

Meet the Author

Paul Meisel is an award-winning author and illustrator for children. His SEE ME RUN (Holiday House, 2012) was voted a Theodore Seuss Geisel Honor book! Paul lives and works in Connecticut, where Paul and his wife and raised their three grown sons. Paul spends most days working in his studio, which has a nice view of the woods and the backyard--often filled with deer, turkeys, an occasional coyote, and once in a great while, a bobcat.

Madelyn Rosenberg is a journalist and picture book author. Kirkus Reviews called The Schmutzy Family "delightful and unpretentious." This is her first novel for children. She lives in Virginia.

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The Schmutzy Family 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
This_Kid_Reviews_Books More than 1 year ago
Mama Schmutzy lets her kids explore and create even if it is MESSY (and it does get very messy). She encourages her kids to create and learn but on Friday, she expects all the Schmutzys to help clean up and get ready for the Sabbath. Why I liked this book –This is a funny book with great illustrations. I like the ending (not telling ;-) ) a lot. It tells an important message – have fun and get messy, but you still have a responsibility to clean up. My Mom let’s us play messy. I like that. It also teaches about some Jewish traditions. I am not Jewish and I liked learning about the Shabbos. I think it is important to learn about other cultures and religions. I think this book will make a great read-aloud! I recommend this book to kids 4+! **NOTE I won a copy of this book in a give-away and liked it so much I wanted to review it.