cover image Kibitzers and Fools: Tales My Zayda Told Me

Kibitzers and Fools: Tales My Zayda Told Me

Simms Taback, . . Viking, $16.99 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-670-05955-3

Life, of course, is a fountain," says a rabbi to a boychik who has sought the meaning of life. "Life is a fountain?" replies narrator Yankel, exhausted after his arduous quest for an answer. "Why is life a fountain?" The rabbi ponders, while standing on his head. "OK," the rabbi says. "So life is not a fountain." With this and a dozen other stories—told to Yankel by his zayda (grandfather)—Caldecott Medalist Taback (Joseph Had a Little Overcoat ) offers readers something perhaps more valuable than chicken soup for the soul; call it chopped liver for the heart. With enormous affection for his Yiddishkeit heritage, Taback introduces youngsters to the wry wit, down-to-earth wisdom and evocative vocabulary of Jewish Eastern Europeans (the final page is a glossary of primo Yiddishisms such as "shmendrik [ a dope]"). The world depicted in these stories of kibitzers ("busybodies"), rebbes ("rabbis") and people with names like Mendel and Shmul may seem long ago and far away to many readers.But the stories' warmhearted silliness, combined with Taback's characteristically irrepressible drawing style, easily transcends the boundaries of time and ethnicities. As long as there is "So much mishegas in the world ," as a headline of one character's Yiddish Post proclaims (one of the many visual asides that make Taback's books so delightful), these tales will never be stale. Mazel tov, Taback! Ages 3-up. (Sept.)