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Gershon's Monster: A Story for the Jewish New Year

Press:A Story for the Jewish New Year

Press:Scholastic Scholastic Press; 1st edition (September 1, 2000)
Publication Date:2000-9
ISBN:9780439108393
Author Name:Kimmel, Eric A./ Muth, Jon J. (ILT)/ Baal Shem Tov
Pages:32
Language:English

Content

Gershon was not always the best person he could be. 
True, the mistakes he made were common, ordinary things: a broken promise, a temper lost for no reason, a little untruth told here and there.
But unlike most people, Gershon never regretted what he did.
He never apologized or asked anyone's forgiveness.
Why should he? Every year, on Rosh Hashanah, he would merely stuff his mistakes into a sack and cast them out to sea.Little did Gershon know, though, that his reckless behavior would certainly come back to haunt him.
Was there still a chance for him to change?Eric A.
Kimmel and Jon J Muth capture all the drama and wonder of this traditional Hasidic legend, as they rekindle our hope for beginning the year anew.

From Publishers Weekly

This presentation of a Hasidic legend has everything a reader could want: a suspenseful story, an insightful lesson and brilliant pictures that accelerate the delivery of both. 
Central to the plot is the custom of tashlikh, the ritual casting of sins into the water on the first day of Rosh Hashanah.
Gershon the baker, "not always the best person he could be," begins to rely on this practice as a way of dealing with his mistakes: instead of apologizing and making amends, he sweeps his thoughtless deeds into the cellar every Friday and, on Rosh Hashanah, he stuffs them into a sack, drags it to the sea and tosses it in.
Of course, he will learn true repentance - but not before he receives a cryptic prophecy from a sage and, much later, faces down the sea monster his sins have created.
Relegating words like tashlikh to a meaty author's note (which also describes Jewish principles of t'shuvah, or repentance), Kimmel (Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins) uses everyday language, letting the moral shine through his astute storytelling.
The airy watercolor illustrations, loaded with period detail, transcend the particularities of the setting by virtue of Muth's (Come On, Rain!) expansive imaginative vision.
He enhances the comedy in the premise by painting the sins as tiny horned imps who jeer as they face Gershon's broom (they grow a bit nastier as the story advances), yet he leaves room for a humane depiction of Gershon, more self-absorbed than wicked, and for a psychologically canny and dramatic portrayal of the monster.
A memorable work, welcome at any time of year.
Ages 5-up.
(Sept.) Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From School Library Journal

Kindergarten-Grade 4-In this retelling of a Hasidic legend, the baker Gershon never repents for any of his wrongdoings. 
Instead, on Rosh Hashanah, he gathers them together and throws them into the sea.
When he and his wife seek help for their childlessness, Gershon visits a tzaddik, or "wonder rabbi." The rabbi writes a charm and tells the man it will bring him and his wife twins but due to his careless acts they will die on their fifth birthday.
When the day arrives, Gershon is able to save his children from the monster created by his sins by truly repenting.
Despite its obvious moral, the story flows well, and Kimmel's language glows, while retaining the flavor of a traditional tale.
The watercolor illustrations work well, with the baker's sins represented as small, black, ghoulish monsters and the beast created from the sum of his misdeeds as a looming, serpentine sea monster.
Muth brings Gershon to life with a truly human expressiveness.
The characters are depicted with the traditional Hasidic side curls and tallith hanging out of their shirts, rooting them firmly in the Jewish tradition.
Kimmel's light hand makes the lessons easy to take, and despite repetitions of the message, the telling remains an enjoyable read.Amy Lilien-Harper, Ferguson Library, Stamford, CT Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

Gr. 
2-4, somewhat younger for reading aloud.
Gershon is a selfish, sinful man, and though his sins are not big, they are plentiful.
Each Rosh Hashanah, he throws them in the sea, but he does not repent and so pollutes the water.
When Gershon's wife is unable to conceive, he goes to a tzaddik, a holy man, who reluctantly grants his wish for children.
Twins are born, and even though Gershon has been warned by the tzaddik that a punishment for his sins is in their young futures, he forgets about the danger until he experiences the sign that the tzaddik foretold.
Gershon rushes to the sea, where his son and daughter are playing.
A giant wave, black and full of his sins is about to capture them, when Gershon cries out to God for forgiveness, which God in His mercy grants; now Gershon's repentance becomes real.
This tale is based on one of the earliest Hasidic legends, and it is in many ways problematic.
The themes of sin and redemption don't easily fit into a picture-book format, especially when the main protagonist is thoroughly unlikable.
Fortunately, Muth's marvelous watercolors, expertly executed, go a long way toward humanizing Gershon and bringing individual elements down to a child's level.
For example, Gershon's sins are shown as nasty imps; in one memorable scene they cover him, pulling at his hair, his beard; he's a man covered in sin.
To get the most from the book, it's important to read the author's note, in which Kimmel explains t'shuva, the Jewish idea of repentance, and what it means to fall short of our "best selves." The story will achieve its full impact when children, with adult help, begin to understand why it is so important to recognize the wrongs they've committed and try to right them.
Ilene CooperCopyright © American Library Association.
All rights reserved

Review

"Kimmel's crisp but lyrical retelling of this early Hasidic legend has a steady pace and mounting tension that makes this a text certain to receive heavy use as a readaloud or told story, but it is as a readalone that this title will have the greatest impact. 
Muth's watercolors add a powerful emotional subtext to this already moving tale.
The visual characterization of Gershon, in prayer shawl and yarmulke, sweeping his impish misdeeds into the cellar has both pathos and humor; the subtle palette (pale blue, sandy brown, creamy yellow) is clean and evocative, providing a peaceful background against which the protagonist, dressed in black, contrasts with a solid power.
The compositions are elegantly arranged, whether featuring close-ups of Gershon's emotional reactions or showing his small figure in black coat and hat dragging a huge sackful of sins to the sea.
The monstrous result of Gershon's negligence is appropriately horrific (some readers may be reminded of Brinton Turkle's nightmare in Do Not Open, BCCB 12/18) as it looms over the beach, blotting out the light of the blue summer sky.
Muth's illustrations for Come On, Rain! (BCCB 4/99) revealed him to be an artist of exceptional skill at visual interpretation of text; this title will ensure that reputation.
An author's note gives background on the story and the Jewish traditions from which it comes." JMD--Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, October 2000, starred review "This presentation of a Hasidic legend has everything a reader could want: a suspenseful story, an insightful lesson and brilliant pictures that accelerate the delivery of both.
Centra to the plot is the custom of tashlikh, the ritual casting of sins into the water on the first day of Rosh Hashanah.
Gershon the baker, "not always the best person he could be," begins to rely on this practice as a way of dealing with his mistakes: instead of apologizing and making amends, he sweeps his thoughtless deeds into the cellar every Friday and, on Rosh Hashanah, he stuffs them into a sack, drags it to the sea and tosses it in.
Of course, he will learn true repentance--but not before he receives a cryptic prophecy from a sage and, much later, faces down the sea monster his sins have created.
Relegating words like tashlikh to a meaty author's note (which also describes Jewish principles of t'shuvah, or repentance), Kimmel (Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins) uses everyday language, letting the moral shine through his astute storytelling.
The airy watercolor illustrations, loaded with period detail, transcend the particularities of the setting by virtue of Muth's (Come on Rain!) expansive imaginative vision.
He enhances the comedy in the premise by painting the sins as tiny horned imps who jeer as they face Gershon's broom (they grow a bit nastier as the story advances), yet he leaves room for a humane depiction of Gershon, more self-absorbed than wicked, and for a psychologically canny and dramatic portrayal of the monster.
A memorable work, welcome at any time of year." --Publishers Weekly, August 28, 2000 starred review."Kimmel is ably served by illustrator Muth, whose soft colored blues, grays, and beiges bring alive the watery landscape of Constantsa on the Black Sea in this quietly moralistic Hasidic tale.
Muth uses the same gentleness that made Come On Rain (rev.7/99) so appealing, yet here his washes of color create a range of moods, from indifference to anger, from terror to calm.
With confidence, Kimmel retells the story of Gershon, "not always the best person he could be,' who "shed(s] Ws mistakes and thoughtless acts like a dug sheds hair." Muth envisions these mistakes as tiny, inky gray monsters, which Gershon sweeps tip and pitches into the cellar.
In several dynamic spreads, the black-hatted and suited Gershon bundles up these mischievous-looking.
misdeeds and drags them, stuffed in a massive sack, down to the

About the Author

Jon J Muth has written and illustrated many enchanting picture books, including his Caldecott Honor Book ZEN SHORTS and its sequel, the NEW YORK TIMES bestselling picture book ZEN TIES. 
Other beloved titles from Jon include THE THREE QUESTIONS, GERSHON'S MONSTER by Eric Kimmel, and THE CHRISTMAS MAGIC by Lauren Thompson.
Muth lives in upstate New York with his wife and five children.

Tags

Children's Books,Holidays & Celebrations,Religious,Fairy Tales, Folk Tales & Myths,Multicultural,Literature & Fiction

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Comment List (Total:14)

  •     For adults as well as Ages 4-8. Every Rosh Hashana, in Jewish communities around the Earth, some Jews symbolically dispose of their sins by emptying their pockets of bread crumbs into streams, rivers, or seas. Some do this symbolically, others with meaning, but a few forget Isaiah's admonition against choosing an improper Fast. The process is known as tashlikh. Eric Kimmel, a prolific Jewish children's book author, presents this book for the High Holidays based on a Hasidic tale about tashlikh and repentance. The book is based on a Hasidic tale attriuted to the Ba'al Shem Tov (BeSHT). It also incorporates the writings of Rabbi Maimonide's 12th Century "Laws of Repentance (Chapter 2)", and Rabbi Benay Lappe's 20th Century "Six Steps for Doing Teshuva." The back page includes the steps needed for real repentance. Now let's get to the book and its sublime watercolor pictures. Gershon the Baker and his noble wife Fayge live in Constantsa on the Black Sea. Is (Constant)sa a town where change does not occur? Gershon the Baker is uncaring and self-absorbed; he sweeps his flaws into his cellar each Friday, but never makes amends or apologizes. Gershon cares nothing about other people's feelings. He never apologizes; he barges into rooms; he knocks things over; he never says, "Thank You." At Rosh Hashana, he places all his sins and flaws, that hang on you like fringes with faces, from the cellar into a sack and take them down to the Black Sea. There in the Sea, he deposits them and forgets them. But do sins just disappear if true repentance is missing? When Gershon travels to Kuty to see a famed rabbi in order to plead for a child, he is oblivious to the rabbi's admonishments that Gershon is undeserving and uncaring. The wonder rabbi relents, for the good of Gershon's wife, and Fayge gives birth to twins within a year. But what about Gershon's ways? They influence the family, the kids, the community, and the Black Sea, until one day, they rise up like a sea monster as the twins are playing on the beach. Can Gershon the Baker change? Will repentance be true? Will the twins be saved? Is there a way to lessen the final decree? Read and find out.

  •     This Jewish fable, retold by Eric A. Kimmel, isn't just for Jewish people. Anybody can relate to Gershon's behavior and its consequences.

  •     Eric Kimmel takes great pains with all his stories, and this was no exception. As explained in his afterward, he derived this superb tale of T'Shuva (repentance, or to be more precise, returning to a righteous path) from an early Hasidic legend of the Rabbi Israel ben Eliezer, who lived in Poland from 1700 to 1760 and was known as the Ba'al Shem Tov, or Master of the Good Name.Kimmel's ancestors came from that region, and he believes they knew him. Given his gift with story telling --- an art for which the Ba'al Shem Tov was also famous --- I can believe it. Not content, however, Kimmel also consulted work of the great 12th century Sephardic Rabbi, Moses Maimonides, known as the Ramban.Hershel sins every day many times, but he counts himself lucky each week to be able to sweep his ill deeds aside. At the end of the year, on Rosh Hashonah, he gathers them in a giant bag, takes them to the sea and tosses them in. Kimmel derives this colorful part of Gershon's annual routine from the Jewish tradition of Tashlikh, when people walk to lakes, rivers or any moving water to toss away their crumbs. This prayerful "casting off of sins," concerns repentance and forgiveness.But Hershel does not take the exercise seriously. He drags his satchel of sins to the sea, and then returns to his old ways --- insulting people, forgetting to say Thank You, telling little untruths here and there. He even forgets to thank the Tzaddik, the holy man, whose prayers make it possible for his childless wife Fayge to bear twins. The Tzaddik warns him, though, that his bad habits will cause problems in a few short years.Sure enough, they do. Hershel's wife has beautiful twins, but all nearly comes to ruin. To discover how Hershel finds the path to T'Shuva and saves his family, indulge in this book brilliantly illustrated by Jon Muth. You and your children will treasure it.--- Alyssa A. Lappen

  •     While looking for something else entirely, my eye fell on this short illustrated retelling of a Hasidic legend, and in very short order I was totally entranced.

  •     I absolutely loved this book! It is very moving and heartwrenching. I must warn, however, that I really do think they misjudged the age group recommendation for this book (4 to...

  •     With haunting illustrations by Jon Muth and sensitive, spiritual text, written on a level kids can easily understand and relate to, Gershon's Monster is a gorgeous book for Rosh...

  •     Gershons Monster by Eric A. Kimmle is the story of a Jewish man named Gershon. Every year on Yom Kippur, Gershon sweeps all of his sins into a bag, and throws them into sea.

  •     I purchased this book four years after I retired and no longer had access to it via my school library. This is a really good good book set on the Black Sea, and perfect to read before going there.

  •     This book is very well written and illuminates the annual ritual of casting our sins into the water known as Tashlik [transliteration varies]. My kids are Kimmel fan.

  •     Themes: community, culture, quest for repentance & forgivenessContent areas: Language Art- (elementary 2nd on up) teacher read aloud and discussion & prediction activities,...

  •     Wonderful story. My two children ( 3 and 7) really enjoy the story over and over. Illustrations are well done. And there's a little historical tidbit at the end. Nice to find a children's book with a traditionally themed Jewish story thats not amateurishly done. Shipping was fast.

  •     A great metaphor!

  •     Garbage haredi book. Read this with my daughter and we both hated it. Typical scare the s*** out of your kids to repent or get punished book, staight out of some catholic...

  •     I am disturbed by the number of 5-stars this book has gotten. I would be willing to use this book with older children (6th grade and up!) but not at all with younger ones.

 

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