cover image My Grandmother's Stories

My Grandmother's Stories

Adele Geras. Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, $17.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-679-80910-4

Readers can almost smell the strudel Grandma makes in these lovingly evoked, beautifully framed Eastern European Jewish folktales. Each of 10 chapters describes a child's visit to Grandma's, during which a simple act--trying on an aunt's high-heeled shoes, dressing up in a lace tablecloth--inspires a not-so-simple tale. Geras's ( Voyage; Nursery School Rabbit ) Grandma is a gifted raconteur; her repertoire includes some familiar stories (a rabbi instructs a couple complaining of cramped quarters to bring their animals into the house) and some familiar characters (the ``wise men'' of Chelm), as well as the more novel (a ``market of miseries,'' a ghost-bride). What gives these retellings a special patina is the long-ago-and-far-away quality of the child's visits themselves, set in an undisclosed time and place. Story elements specific to Judaism are explained without fanfare; even the word ``rabbi'' is unobtrusively defined. And the intricacy of Jordan's pen-and-ink and color illustrations articulates the wealth of detail suggested by the text. Ages 8-12. (Sept.)