Zlateh the Goat and Other Stories Hardcover – May 22 2001
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From two masters who need no introduction comes a handsome reprint of the classic Newbery Honor book Zlateh the Goat and Other Stories. With wit and whimsy, Maurice Sendak illustrates seven tales about the legendary village of fools, Chelm, written by Isaac Bashevis Singer. Silly, outrageous, and sometimes poignant, the stories (translated from the Yiddish) reflect the traditions, heroes, and villains of middle European folklore. The devil makes an appearance more than once, as do the ever-so-foolish yet highly revered Elders of Chelm. In "The Mixed-Up Feet and the Silly Bridegroom," four sisters wake one morning to discover that their feet have become mixed up in the bed they share. A wise Elder advises their mother to whack the bed with a big stick, thus causing each girl to grab her own feet in pain and surprise. When their feet are sorted out, he then recommends, the sisters should be married off as soon as possible, to reduce the possibility of similar mix-ups in the future. Of course, none of them count on the breathtaking stupidity of the first bridegroom. Another not-so-clever fellow stars in "The First Shlemiel." When this man's wife asks him to do three things for her, he promptly and accidentally proceeds to breach each one of his promises, resulting in a baby with a bump on his head, an escaped rooster, and an emptied pot of jam. Somehow, though, possibly because ignorance is bliss, fools always come out on top in these wonderful stories, making for terrific read-aloud, laugh-aloud fun for the entire family. (All ages) --Emilie Coulter
"Singer and Sendak for all ages -- how simple, how perfect! The first, 'Fool's Paradise, ' and the last, the title story, are masterpieces."--" The Kirkus Reviews""Beautiful stories for children, written by a master."--" The New York Times""Timeless tales with their subtle wisdom and universal appeal. Perfect read -- aloud fare for families."--" Parents' MagazineSee all Product Description
Top Customer Reviews
The book opens with a tale called "Fool's Paradise," in which Atzel, the son of Kadish grew up with an unheard of disease: He thought himself dead. Lazy by nature, he did nothing at all. His parents tried everything, and finally consulted Dr. Yoetz. After telling his parents to prepare a darkened room to look like paradise, with white satin sheets, the good physician came to examine the young man and pronounced him "dead." Delighted with this outcome, Atzel regained his appetite and energy, and remained animated until the next day. When exactly the same food was brought to him a winged angel told him, "In paradise, my lord, one always eats the same food." On asking the time of day, he was told "In paradise there is neither day nor night."
Atzel could not meet with anyone, do anything, see his parents or his beloved, whom he was told was mourning him but would meet another young man and marry him instead. "That's how it is with the living." After eight days, Atzel began to see the value of living. He would rather chop wood and carry stones than stay in paradise, and would rather kill himself than stay there forever. At that point, Dr.Read more ›
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
The book opens with a tale called "Fool's Paradise," in which Atzel, the son of Kadish grew up with an unheard of disease: He thought himself dead. Lazy by nature, he did nothing at all. His parents tried everything, and finally consulted Dr. Yoetz. After telling his parents to prepare a darkened room to look like paradise, with white satin sheets, the good physician came to examine the young man and pronounced him "dead."
Delighted with this outcome, Atzel regained his appetite and energy, and remained animated until the next day. When exactly the same food was brought to him a winged angel told him, "In paradise, my lord, one always eats the same food." On asking the time of day, he was told "In paradise there is neither day nor night."
Atzel could not meet with anyone, do anything, see his parents or his beloved, whom he was told was mourning him but would meet another young man and marry him instead. "That's how it is with the living." After eight days, Atzel began to see the value of living. He would rather chop wood and carry stones than stay in paradise, and would rather kill himself than stay there forever. At that point, Dr. Yoetz told Atzel he was not dead after all. Upon returning to the land of the living, Atzel married his beloved and became one of the most industrious and productive souls in the region. (Many souls now seeking paradise could benefit from this story.)
Not all Singer's fools lived in paradise. Some lived in Chelm, the village of idiots young and old. When it snowed on Hanukkah once, all of Chelm glittered like a silver tablecloth. The moon shone; the stars twinkled; the snow shimmered like pearls and diamonds. And the Elders of Chelm believed that a treasure had fallen from the sky. Rather than trample it, they planned to send a messenger to all the houses to tell the people to stay indoors until the treasure could be harvested. But how could the messenger tell them without himself destroying their riches? Suffice it to say the Chelmnicks ended no richer than they began, but for the laughter they provided to outsiders peering in through Singer's window.
My favorite story, though, is not funny at all. In Zlateh the Goat, the last and title tale, Rueven instructed his son Aaron to take his pet to the butcher to pay for the struggling family's Hanukkah celebrations. Heartbroken, the boy nevertheless heeded his father and set out, only to be overtaken by a snowstorm. I cannot tell what happened, except to say that the tale warms hearts to the core.
--- Alyssa A. Lappen
Try it!!!!!! (And a great read aloud, too).
Singer used many adjectives in describing Aaron's journey to town, as it turned from a day of sun into a violent snowstorm. I felt as if I were experiencing the situation myself, as the sunny day quickly turned into darkness and clouds of hail, then snow. The drama of the sudden danger Aaron found himself in was made realistic with the adjectives Singer used. The drama of the story was made more intense as Singer punctuated the story of survival with the descriptions of the goat's expressions, which pulled at my heartstrings even more. He had already made it clear to the audience how trusting the goat was of humans, even as she was led into the harsh conditions of the snowstorm and her trust slowly changed into distrust.
Singer allowed the audience to feel the bewilderment of Aaron as he was caught in the sudden snowstorm, then allowed the audience a sense of hope when the haystack was discovered. It was an unpredictable and ironic way that Singer designed Aaron's survival: the goat provided warmth, food, shelter, and love for the boy who leading her to the butcher. Singer brings his readers along with Aaron and the goat with his continued and plentiful use of adjectives. He also uses emotions that are shared by reading audiences from all over the globe, which helps the readers identify with the characters in the story.
There was even a little humor toward the first part of the story, as the goat was wondering why she was being led away, then "came to the conclusion that a goat shouldn't ask questions" (Singer, 1966, p. 46). Finally, the story concludes with a happy ending. I loved the way Singer ended the story by painting a picture of the warm stove, the children playing as the Hannukah candles flickered, and the love of the family and the love between Zlateh and Aaron. It was the kind of story that I find comforting and satisfying to curl up with in front of a fire.
Every single story in this book is similarly heartwarming, I highly recommend for adults and children alike.
These two collections included several stories that I really enjoyed and many that I didn't much like. Several stories in each book took place in the city of Chelm and mentioned the 7 City Elders (described by the author as fools). One of the residents of that city is Shlemiel, who appears in several stories and is also, undeniably, a fool. Although I like to think I have a sense of humor, and I enjoy a good taste of the ridiculous every now and again, sometimes, it's just a little too much. The two collections contained just a few too many stories dealing with the utter foolishness of these people for me to truly enjoy the reading. To give a quick example, a short story from Zlateh the Goat entitled The Snow in Chelm begins like this:
Chelm was a village of fools, fools young and old. One night someone spied the moon reflected in a barrel of water. The people of Chelm imagined it had fallen in. They sealed the barrel so that the moon would not escape. When the barrel was opened in the morning and the moon wasn't there, the villagers decided it had been stolen. They sent for the police, and when the thief couldn't be found, the fools of Chelm cried and moaned.
For some, I'm sure these stories would be very enjoyable and amusing tales. However, reading story after story involving more and more absurdities became just a little too much for me. Between the two books, almost half the stories dealt in some way with the preposterous happenings of the residents of Chelm.
However, I generally found the stories that did not mention Shlemiel or the Elders (and people) of Chelm to be very entertaining, and often delightful. I especially enjoyed the stories, Rabbi Leib & the Witch Cunegunde, and Shrewd Todie & Lyzer the Miser and the message of Utzel & His Daughter Poverty from Warsaw. My favorites from Zlateh were the stories Fool's Paradise, and Zlateh the Goat. These stories are all clever and well written, often with a warm moral, subtly teaching the reader ways to improve and become better without beating you over the head with the moral.
For the most part, I enjoyed reading these stories. It's always nice to get a new look at a culture I know very little about. In the foreward to Warsaw, Singer mentions that while each are retold using his own language and ideas, several of the stories within came from legends and stories told by his mother and grandmother. I love the different folk tales from various cultures, so that was fun. I did enjoy reading these short stories, and am glad I picked them up.
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