Shlemiel Crooks

Anna Olswanger; Paula Good­man Koz., illus.
  • Review
By – August 6, 2012

This love­ly book is a win­ner on two lev­els. It intro­duces the read­er to a fas­ci­nat­ing peri­od in Amer­i­can Jew­ish his­to­ry, while pro­vid­ing an extreme­ly humor­ous and enter­tain­ing sto­ry. Based on real mem­bers of the author’s fam­i­ly, the sto­ry serves as an intro­duc­tion to the Jew­ish immi­grant expe­ri­ence in Amer­i­ca. The ven­er­a­ble Low­er East Side of New York is not the set­ting of this tale; rather it is set in St. Louis in 1919

Two thieves attempt to steal a new ship­ment of kosher wine for Passover. Reb Elias Olswanger is the kosher wine sell­er, who is con­vinced that the wines being import­ed from the Holy Land were made from grapes descend­ed from those that the Israelites took out of Egypt with them at the time of the Exo­dus. The crooks of the title are direct­ed by the ghost of the Pharaoh of the Exo­dus. The Prophet Eli­jah and a talk­ing horse are two of the oth­er play­ers. The Yid­dishisms of the char­ac­ters add authen­tic­i­ty to the imag­i­na­tive events. Strik­ing col­or­ful prints by Paula Good­man Koz are a live­ly, appro­pri­ate com­ple­ment to the text. Rec­om­mend­ed for ages 7 – 12.

Read­ing Guide

Shelly Feit has an M.L.S. and a Sixth-year Spe­cial­ist’s Cer­tifi­cate in infor­ma­tion sci­ence. She is the library direc­tor and media spe­cial­ist at the Mori­ah School in Engle­wood, NJ.

Discussion Questions