Five Little Gefiltes

by Dave Horowitz

Book, 2007



Call number

E 500 HOR



New York : G.P. Putnam's Sons, c2007.


Five little gefilte fish sneak out of their jar and explore the world, causing their poor mother great worry. Includes a note about gefilte fish and a glossary of Yiddish words.

User reviews

LibraryThing member STBA
Such a deal! A rhyming, counting book that also includes a lesson in Yiddish, a brief tour of New York City, a survey of Jewish culinary habits and a moral – always try to be a mensch! As five gefilte fish leave the comfort of their jar, their numbers dwindle as they go to a play, take a swim,
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visit a deli, and take a taxi. While Mama Gefilte laments in the park, all the gefiltes come back to her. The book includes a humorous glossary of all the Yiddish words and phrases used in the book.

The colorful and animated illustrations enhance the text, and the use of five fish make it long enough to create the pattern and short enough to re-read it to preschoolers. No gefilte fish were harmed, or eaten in the book. It is appropriate for all libraries.
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LibraryThing member limeminearia
Five Little Gefiltes is a funny picture book based on the traditional rhyme “Five Little Ducks.” In it the five little gefiltes, clad in black hats, venture out of the jar and far away. Mama Gefilte cries out “Oy Veh! But only four little gefiltes came back that day.” The book is chock full
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of chatty asides, Yiddish phrases and Jewish humor (“They’re like Matzoh balls made out of fish. Feh! That’s disgusting- So who’s asking you to eat one?... Now on with our story.” The setting is an abstract and colorful 1920’s New York where the fish balls visit destinations including the Yiddish theatre, (featuring Little Miss Matzo and Goldie Locks & the 3 Shmears) the New York Bay, and the deli. This winner of the Sydney Taylor Book Award also has a glossary in the back to introduce young readers to Yiddish words and to amuse readers of all ages. A sample entry reads:

“Chutzpah (KHOOTS-pa) noun: Nerve. Bravado. Example: Dave got someone to publish this ridiculous book about a bunch of gefilte fish? Now that’s what I call chutzpah!”

This picture book, like Simms Taback’s Joseph Had a Little Overcoat, is a great introduction to Jewish humor that has appeal for non-religious Jews and for non- Jews as well. The choice to use common Yiddish phrases and other Jewish in-jokes is not without the potential to generate controversy. Some may see such humor as a loving homage to one’s own background and family history, while others are sensitive to the potential of such humor to be used for stereotyping or to limit or caricature Jewish identity. Scholar Lois Leveen argues that in some cases:

“Ethnic jokes can not only be not offensive or bigoted, they can serve as an important strategy for defining ethnicity positively. They can provide a welcome means for asserting pride in one's ethnic identity, rather than serving merely to demean those who are marked as ethnically Other.”

In an interview for the Jewish podcast Book of Life Dave Horowitz makes a case for this book as operating in the positive capacity that Leveen describes:

“I hope that people will find it a book that’s funny not just to Jewish people. There are a lot of mixed marriages obviously nowadays and so I think it’s important that kids who are growing up with maybe one Jewish parent have a way into this culture. So this book’s intention was to focus more on the culture of the ethnicity of being Jewish so it doesn’t frighten off parents who don’t know how to address the religious side of Judaism but want to get that sense of history and humor that the culture has.”

Speaking as a cultural (half)Jew who grew up with no religion whatsoever, but plenty of gefilte fish and Issac Bashevis Singer books, I’m inclined to agree with the author. This silly book serves a valuable purpose.

This could be used at library story times (with the caveat that it's harder to sing than the original.) It is a good choice to recommend for teachers or parents looking for a fun Passover book for younger readers. It could also be useful as an introduction to Yiddish or for a New York-themed story time. It could even be put on display if you happened to have a Jewish cooking program for adults and teens. It is also a useful book for showing how a single song or story can be reinterpreted through various cultural lenses, sometimes resulting in a work more humorous than the original.
Works Cited:

Horowitz, Dave. Five Little Gefiltes. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2007. Print.

Leveen, Lois. “Only When I Laugh: Textual Dynamics of Ethnic Humor.” MELUS Jan 1996: 29-55. JSTOR. Web. Mar 7 2010.

Estrin, Heidi. Feldman Children’s Library of B’Nai Israel of Boca Raton "Why is This Podcast Different From All Other Podcasts?" Mar 13 2007. Podcast. "Book of Life: A Podcast About Jewish People and the Books We Read". Mar 7 2010.
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LibraryThing member AbigailAdams26
Five little gefilte fish head out into the world one by one in this hilarious rhyming picture-book from author/illustrator Dave Horowitz, and although their concerned mother keeps up a refrain of "Oy vehs!," fewer and fewer of them come back. Eventually Mama Gefilte is left on her own, making her
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solitary way to the park. But what's this?! Her gefiltes have been well trained, and prove themselves true mensches by visiting their mother...

Using the classic children's song about the Five Little Ducks as a jumping-off point, Horowitz creates an entertaining Yiddish adventure in Five Little Gefiltes, one that will introduce young children to quite a bit of vocabulary from that language, while also keeping them engaged with a silly sing-song story. I enjoyed the main story here, as well as the little speech-bubble asides, and appreciated the inclusion of a Yiddish glossary at the rear. Recommended to anyone in the market for humorous sing-song picture-books in general, or Yiddish-themed tales specifically.
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Original publication date



0399246088 / 9780399246081

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