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The Wise Men of Chelm and the Foolish Carp (Paperback)

Children's Books

By Isaac Bashevis Singer, Illustrations by Viktoria Efremova
Imprint: Green Bean Books
Pages: 24
Illustrations: 20 colour illustrations
ISBN: 9781784385651
Published: 30th September 2020

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RRP £9.99

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When Chelm community leader, Gronam Ox, is given a live carp in honour of his great wisdom, he is delighted. He knows, of course, that eating the brain of a carp increases wisdom and that the size of the tail is indicative of the size of the brain. But when the carp uses that very tail to slap him across the face – in what can only have been a deliberate act – Gronam Ox is shocked. Surely no Chelm carp would have behaved in such an appalling manner. There is nothing else for it; the carp must be punished.

While Gronam Ox ponders the most fitting punishment, the carp is fed and looked after in a large tub of water stationed in the town centre. It is essential that the carp survives until the day of judgement but Gronam Ox’s deliberations are taking quite some time. The carp grows fatter and fatter until finally, many months later, Gronam Ox arrives at an apt sentence – one so clever that all the people of Chelm flock to see it exacted. The carp must be drowned!

Written for children by the master storyteller and former Nobel Laureate Isaac Bashevis Singer, this classic Yiddish folktale is infused with his signature humour, warmth and wisdom. This beautifully illustrated new publication will bring the famously foolish people of Chelm to life for a new generation of children.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Cleverly written, Isaac Bashevis Singer has created a story about a carp who is able to outwit the Jewish elders.
Gronam Ox of Chelm is presented with a large living carp in honour of his great wisdom. Set just before the sabbath, the story explains to the reader about the significance of the fish and the sabbath, and the old folktales say that the size of the carp's tale is indicative of its brain size. The carp commits a seeminglĂ˝ foolish carp slaps its tail into the face of the Gronam Ox. The people of Chelm are outraged and the fish is kept imprisoned until a fitting punishment is decided upon.
This is a cleverly written tale where the reader has many questions to answer, was the Carp being foolish? Why was the Carp treated in such a way during and after its punishment? What would the reader have done instead if they were the Carp or the elders?
This book could be easily adapted as a classroom resource or just read to younger readers for pleasure. It teaches children about some Jewish customs as well as providing them with things to think about. The illustrations are beautiful and I'm sure many children will enjoy creating their own versions of them.

NetGalley, Kristina Watts

I really enjoyed this story and it is probably my favourite of the stories of Chelm I have read so far!

The stories of Chelm are always great for teaching morals to young children and this one was no different - it also has some stunning and beautiful images too which bring the story to life!

This story is an updated version of a classic Yiddish folktale and I love that this series allows me a brilliant opportunity to introduce my daughter to tales from different cultures. This book was easy to read, enjoyable for us both and one we will read again and again, it is 4 stars from me for this one - highly recommended and a pleasure to read and enjoy!

NetGalley, Donna Maguire

This is an interesting book about a carp and what happens to him. The illustrations are really done well.

NetGalley, Kaitlyn Waller

This updated version of the classic Yiddish folktale features outstanding illustrations. It’s release also presents a wonderful opportunity to introduce tales from different cultures to young children. The humor will entertain both children and adults. This is one of my favorites.

NetGalley, Morris Morgan

The stories of Chelm are always great for teaching morals to young children. In this story, part of the fun for the kids is the juxtaposition of the wise fish against the foolish men....after all, they try to drown a fish as punishment!
The kids get riled up by that and it usually starts a conversation.

NetGalley, Yvie Field

About Isaac Bashevis Singer

Isaac Bashevis Singer was a Polish-born American writer who only ever wrote in Yiddish. The author of numerous novels, short stories, stories for children, essays, articles and memoirs, he was a leading figure in the Yiddish literary movement and was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1978.


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