cover image The Knish War on Rivington Street

The Knish War on Rivington Street

Joanne Oppenheim, illus. by Jon Davis. Albert Whitman, $16.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-8075-4182-1

In a story set on New York City’s Rivington Street in roughly the same period evoked in William Steig’s When Everyone Wore a Hat, two immigrant families open knisheries—bakeries selling savory dumplings—right across from each other. Free market mania ensues, triggering a cascade of price undercutting (with the knishes going for pennies, the profit margins are razor thin) and sales gimmicks (raffles, music, free samples, and sandwich board signs for Benny and Solly, the dutiful but dubious young scions of each family). The knishes sell like hotcakes, so to speak, but the competitive fervor soon has the neighborhood complaining “Enough already!” Oppenheim (The Prince’s Bedtime) establishes a brisk pace that grows ever more giddy, although she may have taken universality a little too far: in a book set on the Lower East Side and centered on Jewish food, characters, and inflections, the word “Jewish” never appears. Davis’s (Small Blue and the Deep Dark Night) crisp-line cartooning makes the cacophony and comic high anxiety of the neighborhood downright appetizing. Ages 4–8. Illustrator’s agent: Kate Johnson, Advocate Art. (Aug.)