When Adam's family leaves Russia for America, Grandfather gives him an ancient prayer shawl that has been passed down from generation to generation, and in time, an older Adam passes the prayer shawl down to his own grandson. Reprint. AB.
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Sheldon Oberman wrote two Sydney Taylor Honor Award-winning books - The Wisdom Bird and The Always Prayer Shawl, which also won a National Jewish Book Award. He taught at Joseph Wolinsky Collegiate, Winnipeg, Manitoba, where the Sheldon Oberman Writing Award has been established in his honor.
Ted has illustrated more than one hundred books for children and also wrote an autobiography entitled I Was a Teenage Professional Wrestler. He lives in Brooklyn, New York, with his wife, Betsy, who also illustrates children's books.
Kindergarten-Grade 3-When Adam, a young boy growing up in Czarist Russia, emigrates to the United States with his family, his grandfather gives him the prayer shawl that his grandfather had given him. Throughout his life, Adam continues to wear and repair the shawl, hanging on to his grandfather's statement that "'Everything about it has changed. But it is still my Always Prayer Shawl. It is just like me. I have changed and changed and changed. But I am still Adam.'" He explains to his own grandson the story behind the shawl, and the young boy pledges to carry on the tradition of naming a son Adam and passing the heirloom on to him. The book effectively illustrates how different life was for a child growing up in Russia than it is for modern children. The major theme that some things change while others never do is worth exploring, but the story leaves little to the imagination and hammers the message home. Non-Jewish children may wonder what makes the prayer shawl so special; Oberman never explains its use in worship. Lewin's paintings feature gracefully drawn figures that look especially good at a distance. But at times, the pictures fail to convey the full range of emotion described in the narrative, such as in the scene in which Adam says good-bye to his grandfather. Additionally, it seems almost arbitrary that the black-and-white illustrations change to lushly colored watercolors when Adam becomes an adult. When books about family traditions, especially those of Jewish people, are needed, this one will suffice, with the help of an adult who can answer the anticipated questions.
Ellen Fader, Oregon State Library, Salem
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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