Page 96 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 35

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JEWISH BOOK ANNUAl
only a skeleton of Howard Fast’s excellent
H a ym Sa lom on , Son
of L ib e r ty ,
which is a much fuller telling of the Salomon story.
Of course, Fast’s version was published in 1941, too early to win
an award.
Continuing chronologically once again, 1960 yielded an un ­
distinguished list, of which Regina T o r ’s
D isco ver in g Israe l,
a
well-organized, informative handbook, was unquestioningly the
best. T he 1961 list brought a re tu rn of literary quality with
such titles as Feder-Tal’s
Stone o f Peace
and Weilerstein’s prize-
winning
T en and a K id .
T he la tter is the story of a Jewish
family in a L ithuan ian shtetl. Papa is a scholar turned hide-
dealer and mama still retains the grace and culture gained in
a privileged girlhood. T he family has ten children and is
increased still further by a goat (promptly called “Gadya,” as
it wandered in during the Seder in place of E l i jah ) . Gadya-
Elijah is believed to be a miracle-worker by little Reizel, a
daughter of the family. Since faith is itself a miracle, perhaps she
is right. I t is a charming, believable book with excellent charac­
terizations and detailed descriptions of the shtetl milieu.
Two books of historical fiction were the next choices. Josephine
Kamm won in 1962 for
R e tu rn to F reedom
and Sulamith Ish-
Kishor in 1963 for
A Boy of O ld P rague . R e tu rn to F reedom
tells the story of the struggle of the Jews to regain the righ t
to settle freely in England from which they were expelled in
1290. The ir big hope is Oliver Cromwell, for whom they provide
military intelligence. The events are seen through the eyes of
thirteen-year-old Andrew Anson (really Abraham Anes), who
like other Jews must outwardly adopt Christianity to remain in
England.
A B oy o f O ld Prague
involves the reader in the super­
stitious mentality of medieval Poland, where Jews were hated
and feared as agents of the devil. A contrast is drawn between
the calloused cruelty of the Gentile aristocracy and the com­
passionate civility of the Jewish ghetto to which the hero, Tomas,
a Gentile, is sent as punishment. T he change wrought in Tomas’
thinking as a result of his exposure to Jewish life is the essence
of the story. Both authors are ap t in describing the sights, sounds
and smells of the period, as well as the thought processes prevalent
in those times. Language patterns and attitudes are consistent
with the period, bu t only Ish-Kishor is able to add tha t indes­
cribable element tha t draws the reader past the confines of