cover image Just Stay Put: A Chelm Story

Just Stay Put: A Chelm Story

Gary Clement. Groundwood Books, $14.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-88899-239-0

The fabled fools of Chelm turn out in full force, demonstrating their fractured faculties for deduction in this folktale. Mendel, a peasant, yearns to travel and finally sets off toward the big city, Warsaw. Along the way, he stops for a nap. Worried that he'll forget which way he is heading, he removes his boots and points their toes in the direction he needs to go. While he sleeps, however, a shepherd stops to inspect the boots and turns them around. When Mendel resumes his journey and winds up in Chelm, he refuses to believe that he isn't in Warsaw and vows never to travel again: ""If one place is exactly like every other place, one might as well just stay put,"" he concludes. Readers who appreciate skewed logic will find plenty of amusement in this rustic story, which uses a few colloquialisms for a Yiddish flavor (""Ach, he's completely meshugga!"" Mendel's wife exclaims). Metaphorical illustrations, as off-balance as Mendel's reasoning, take archetypes into consideration. Clement paints Mendel the dreamer as a pale, bearded giant with his head literally in the clouds, and uses giant imagery again on the road to Warsaw, where grassy hills blanket huge, sleeping men and women. These imaginative pictures portray Mendel as Everyman, complete with humble origins and stubborn silliness. Ages 4-8. (Apr.)