Winner of the Canada's Ruth Schwartz Children's Book Award and the Sydney Taylor Award, Something from Nothing
is one of Phoebe Gilman's finest books for young readers. Based on a classic Yiddish folk tale, it tells the story of Joseph, whose Grandpa, the tailor in a little village, makes him a beautiful blanket to keep him warm and comfy and safe from bad dreams. When the blanket becomes a little tattered and his mother wants to throw it out, Joseph takes it to Grandpa to see if he can rescue it. Grandpa makes him a jacket and, later, a vest, and finally there's nothing left of the original blanket but a fancy button. Gilman's storytelling skills are matched by her noteworthy illustrations--in oil and egg tempera on gessoed satin-finish watercolour paper--of the Polish shtetl where Joseph and his family live. But that's not the end of the fun--Gilman mirrors shtetl life with a little mouse family that lives under the floorboards of Joseph's house. Her truly remarkable book even offers its young readers a wonderful surprise ending. (Ages 4 to 8) --Jeffrey Canton
From Publishers Weekly
When Joseph was a baby, his grandfather made him a shimmering blue blanket adorned with the moon and stars. As the boy grows and the blanket wears out, the old tailor recycles it, in succession fashioning a jacket, a vest, a tie and, finally, a cloth-covered button. But when Joseph loses the button, even his grandfather cannot make something from nothing. With its judicious repetition and internal rhymes, this thoughtfully presented Jewish folktale will captivate readers right through the ending, in which the boy discovers one last incarnation for his beloved keepsake. Although her renderings of human faces border on cartoonishness, Gilman's ( The Wonderful Pigs of Jillian Jiggs ) oil-glazed tempera paintings suggest the vivid world of Joseph's shtetl, with full-page cutaway illustrations recording the multileveled activity in Joseph's house. In an imaginative visual stroke, the bottom of each spread features the beneath-the-floorboards doings of a family of mice whose domestic life--from new births to Sabbath dinners to the outfitting of their entire home in discarded swatches of the blue blanket--winsomely mirrors Joseph's own. Ages 5-11.
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