cover image A Journey to Paradise and Other Jewish Tales

A Journey to Paradise and Other Jewish Tales

Howard Schwartz. Simcha Media Group (NJ), $16.95 (48pp) ISBN 978-0-943706-21-4

A talented folklorist, Schwartz (Elijah's Violin & Other Jewish Fairy Tales) culls eight little-known stories from Sephardic and Eastern European Jewish lore. All have a mystical bent: a rabbi's daughter travels in her dreams to the Garden of Eden to retrieve an apple that will save the life of the ailing daughter of a Turkish sultan; a Yemenite midwife is brought to the Kingdom of Demons to deliver a baby. In the one purely comic tale, a poor man tricks the fools of Chelm by claiming to bring a message from their dead. The stories are well told, but they lack the supporting material that mainstream readers will need. For example, references to such concepts as ""the thirty-six righteous ones"" go unexplained, and the cultural traditions may be puzzling (Why would a midwife be rewarded for bringing a demon into the world?). Unfortunately, Carmi's (The Miracle of the Potato Latkes) illustrations address only the most obvious elements of the plots, failing to tap into the many moods Schwartz evokes. Rendered in thick strokes of overly strong colors, the perspectives distorted, they look more crude than folkish. Ages 6-9. (Mar.)