INVISIBLE KINGDOMS: Jewish Tales of Angels, Spirits, and Demons

Howard Schwartz, Retold by, Stephen Fieser, Illustrator , illus. by Stephen Fieser. HarperCollins $16.99 (80p) ISBN 978-0-06-027855-7

Schwartz (The Day the Rabbi Disappeared: Jewish Holiday Tales of Magic) continues to explore mystical elements of Jewish folklore with nine tales from various regions and periods. Some recombine staple themes of fairy tales, as in "The Angel's Daughter," from Bukhara, wherein the youngest of seven sons embarks on a perilous quest to win the hand of a princess. Others more clearly incorporate Jewish teachings. In the Eastern European "A Roomful of Ghosts," for example, a wise rabbi with a magic staff ("like that of Moses") sends a boy to a cemetery to guide a seemingly doomed spirit to the grave of a miserly man; in begging a ruble from him, she permits him to perform an act of charity and save his soul, and thus she saves her own. Not all the entries are tightly edited, however, and some feel episodic rather than organic. This collection also lacks the interpretive framework that gave such depth to The Day the Rabbi Disappeared. These caveats aside, the writing feels steeped in color and can be easily enjoyed by a nonsectarian audience. Fieser (previously paired with Schwartz for The Sabbath Lion) enhances the book's innate appeal with dynamic full-page illustrations in radiant tones. His style is mostly representational (angels, for example, look like people with wings), reflecting the storyteller's equal emphasis on the natural and the supernatural. Ages 8-up. (Oct.)

Reviewed on: 10/28/2002
Release date: 10/01/2002
Hardcover - 80 pages - 978-0-06-027856-4
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