Review of The Book Rescuer: How a Mensch from Massachusetts Saved Yiddish Literature for Generations to Come

The Book Rescuer: How a Mensch from Massachusetts Saved Yiddish Literature for Generations to Come
by Sue Macy; illus. by Stacy Innerst
Primary    Wiseman/Simon    48 pp.
10/19    978-1-4814-7220-3    $17.99
e-book ed.  978-1-4814-7221-0    $10.99

Kum aher. Sit down. I want to tell you a story.” With a storyteller’s cadence, Macy (Miss Mary Reporting, rev. 1/16; Trudy’s Big Swim, rev. 7/17) explains how Aaron Lansky came to collect the thousands of books now housed in the Yiddish Book Center in Amherst, Massachusetts. Through an anecdote from Lansky’s family history as well as a brief historical overview of why the number of Yiddish speakers has dwindled, Macy gives context to Lansky’s difficulty in finding Yiddish novels for his college studies. That difficulty led him to collect books first for his own purposes, then for the Center (which he founded) starting in 1980. Stories of how he obtained them—meetings “over tea and cake and lokshn kugl” with older Jews; a late-night dash to a dumpster—lend both human interest and a sense of urgency to the mission. Innerst’s (The Beatles Were Fab (and They Were Funny), rev. 5/13) painterly illustrations (in acrylic and gouache, with fabric textures rendered digitally, and, according to an illustrator’s note, inspired by Marc Chagall), give readers plenty to peruse, with sprinkled Yiddish words and visual references to Jewish history and culture. Detailed back matter also includes notes from Lansky and Macy, a glossary, further resources, and source notes.

From the November/December 2019 Horn Book Magazine.

Shoshana Flax
Shoshana Flax

Shoshana Flax, assistant editor of The Horn Book Magazine, is a former bookseller and holds an MFA in Writing for Children from Simmons University. She was a 2019-2020 member of the Sydney Taylor Book Award committee.

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