Oy, Feh, So?

Cary Fagan, illus. by Gary Clement. Groundwood (PGW, dist.), $17.95 (40p) ISBN 978-1-55498-148-9
Every Sunday, it’s the same story: the narrator’s three crotchety relatives come over, plop down on the furniture, and respond to everything with the dismissive Yiddish interjections “Oy” (Aunt Essy), “Feh” (Aunt Chanah), and “So?” (Uncle Sam). Nothing the narrator and his siblings do fazes—or engages—them. (“Feh,” says Aunt Chanah when the kids pretend to be a dragon and its victim. “I never liked pets.”) Frustrated, the kids begin imitating their elders, but instead of being offended, the relatives burst out laughing and regale their niece and nephews with stories about the olden days. Channeling E.M. Forster by way of the Borscht Belt, Fagan and Clement (who previously teamed up on Ten Old Men and a Mouse) offer a very funny and highly performable plea for the generations to “Only connect.” Making the most of the book’s horizontal format, Clement portrays a living room under siege by three master kvetchers, which makes their blossoming into raconteurs all the more rewarding. While the story will resonate most with Jewish audiences, any readers with difficult older relatives should find comic common ground. Ages 4–8. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 02/25/2013
Release date: 03/01/2013
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