cover image The Always Prayer Shawl

The Always Prayer Shawl

Sheldon Oberman. Boyds Mills Press, $15.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-1-878093-22-6

Oberman's ( Lion in the Lake ) simply told and moving story invokes the power of tradition. Adam is a Jewish boy growing up in czarist Russia, where his grandfather, also named Adam, teaches him the importance of Jewish beliefs and customs, stressing that ``some things change and some things don't.'' Without distancing the reader, comparisons crystallize the differences between Adam's time and the present: ``When Adam went for eggs, he did not get them from a store. He got them from a chicken. When Adam felt cold, he did not turn a dial for heat. He chopped wood for a fire.'' When Adam and his parents emigrate, Adam's grandfather gives his prayer shawl to the boy, who responds with a promise: ``I am always Adam and this is my always prayer shawl. That won't change.'' In America, Adam learns to live, dress and speak differently. The prayer shawl changes, too--first the fringe is replaced, then the collar and finally the cloth. But, as Adam is to explain to his own grandson, ``It is still my Always Prayer Shawl.'' As a tender conclusion brings Adam's spiritual life full circle, Lewin underscores the cyclical theme by picturing the grandson as very like the young Adam. His realistic watercolors dynamically depict the Old World in black and white, changing to color as Adam grows up, and his affecting portraits match the quiet passion of Oberman's prose. Ages 7-up. (Feb.)