cover image On One Foot

On One Foot

Linda Glaser, illus. by Nuria Balaguer. Kar-Ben, $17.99 (32p) ISBN 978-1-4677-7

Once upon an ancient time, a “somewhat foolish” young man arrives in Jerusalem to study the Torah, certain that “a truly great teacher could teach me the whole Torah while standing on one foot.” One sage after another scorns him (“Don’t you know there are 613 commandments in the Torah?” shouts one), until he reaches Hillel, the greatest rabbi of all, who distills the Torah into one sentence: “Do not do to others what you do not want them to do to you,” he says. “The rest is just comments and explanations.” This is an old Jewish fable, and one in which Hillel’s interlocutor is traditionally a contentious Gentile. Glaser (Stone Soup with Matzoh Balls) softens the corners considerably, but she doesn’t blunt the incisive message, and her relatable, well-meaning protagonist’s growing frustration and scowls should remind readers of their own dark moods. Newcomer Balaguer’s dimensional, toylike collages are a treat, filled with clever and even irreverent touches: all the characters’ noses are made from Hebrew texts, and the elders’ beards are fashioned from materials that range from torn brown paper to snippets of mesh. Ages 5–9. [em](Mar.) [/em]