cover image When Zaydeh Danced on Eldridge Street

When Zaydeh Danced on Eldridge Street

Elsa Okon Rael. Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing, $16 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-689-80451-9

The Lower East Side of 1930s New York City again crackles with life as Zeesie, star of What Zeesie Saw on Delancey Street, features in another colorfully chronicled family story. When her mother goes to the hospital to give birth, Zeesie is brought to her grandparents Bubbeh Ruchel and Zaydeh Avrum. Spending time with her stern, gruff Zaydeh always makes Zeesie uneasy, but during this visit she accompanies her grandfather to his synagogue for Simchas Torah (a holiday explained in the text). In the celebration she discovers his softer side and learns something of the great significance of the Torah as well. Rael skillfully intertwines elements of Jewish religion and culture and believable family dynamics to create a slice-of-life-type portrait that will enthrall young readers. Her liberal use of Hebrew and Yiddish words clearly evokes the bygone era and will also spur exploration of the book's short glossary. Priceman captures the sacredness and beauty of religious symbolism without abandoning her playful, deceptively casual style. Her gouaches depict ornate Torah scrolls, the synagogue's rich wood interior and dazzling stained-glass windows as Zeesie gambols within. While renderings of rooftop pigeons, wrought iron fire escapes and a variety of brownstone buildings provide a big city air, neither Priceman nor Rael lets the reader lose sight of the warm, intimate bonds at the heart of the story. Ages 5-9. (Sept.)