cover image The Mitzvah Magician

The Mitzvah Magician

Linda Elovitz Marshall, illus. by Christiane Engel. Kar-Ben, $17.95 (32p) ISBN 978-0-7613-5655-4

Let other magicians have their "abracadabras," Gabriel discovers that the most effective incantation draws on his religious heritage: "One-wish! Two-wish! JEW-ISH!" Saying those words inspires Gabriel to use his "magical" powers for a mitzvah%E2%80%94Hebrew for a good deed (like cleaning up his messes or creating a conciliatory surprise for his baby sister). Never mind that it was some less-than-good deeds on Gabriel's part (making the messes in the first place, teasing his sister so that the conciliatory act was necessary) that initially earned him a time out. Younger readers who are embracing their Jewish identity right make Marshall's (Talia and the Rude Vegetables) magic words their new catchphrase, and there's a lot to like in Engel's (Ooh La La Polka-Dot Boots) portrayal of the jaunty caped and top-hatted hero and his loving, firmly grounded Jewish household. Whether this moral tale has appeal beyond religious school-story hours will depend on readers' tolerance for the chirpy earnestness ("He thought and thought and thought some more") that pervades the text. Ages 3%E2%80%938. (Sept.)