Nobel laureate Isaac Bashevis Singer introduces readers to the village of Chelm in this Newbery Honor Book. Chelm is a village of fools. The most famous fools--the oldest and the greatest--are the seven Elders. But there are lesser fools too: a silly irresponsible bridegroom; four sisters who mix up their feed in bed one night; a young man who imagines himself dead. Here are seven magical folktales spun by a master storyteller, that speak of fools, devils, schlemiels, and even heroes--like Zlateh the goat. The New York Times called Zlateh the Goat and Other Stories, "beautiful stories for children, written by a master." The New York Book Review said, "This book is a triumph. If you have no older children on your list, buy it for yourself." Singer's extraordinary book of folklore is illustrated by Maurice Sendak, who won a Caldecott Medal for Where the Wild Things Are. Supports the Common Core State Standards
Silliest, ideal for classroom use: "The Mixed-Up Feet and the Silly Bridegroom."
Mine is a 1966 edition, first borrowed in 1967. Before me, the last borrower was in 2001. And drawings by Sendak!
My favorite was definitely the title story, “Zlateh the Goat.” Zlateh has been good to Aaron’s family, but it is now Hanukkah and the family needs money for basic necessities. Aaron grudgingly leads her to the butcher, only to be caught in a snowstorm. The snow is so bad that no one can even search for the pair. Will Aaron be reunited with his family in time for Hanukkah? Will he even survive the storm?
Recommended for families with children and adults with a Jewish interest.
1966, 90 pp.
Singer, Isaac Bashevis. Zlateh the Goat. New York: Harper and Row, 1966
Characters: Aaron, his dad Reuvan, and Zlateh the Goat
Setting: Small village around Hanukkah time
Theme: Family, human and animal relationships, holidays, perseverance
Golden Quote: "Yes, Zlateh's language consisted of only one word, but it meant many things."
Summary: Reuvan the furrier decided that the family must sell the family goat in order to have money for the upcoming holiday of Hanukkah. His son Aaron was tasked with walking Zlateh to the butcher to sell her. Along the journey, Aaron and Zlateh are hit with a terrible snow blizzard and are forced to find nearby shelter in a hill of hay. Once inside, Aaron makes it breathable, and cozy, and sleeps while Zlateh happily eats lots of hay. Eventually, Aaron becomes so hungry that he drinks milk from Zlateh, and they both survive in the shelter for three days. Aaron's family surely believes that he is lost, and are surprised to see him and Zlateh return. Everyone agrees that Zlateh saved Aaron and deserves to live out her days as part of the family.
Audience: Elementary and Middle school
Curriculum: Influence of setting on the plot
Awards: 1967 Newbery Honor
Personal Response: I thought this book was a charming tale, and was written in a way to show love and concern toward animals. I think that middle school students would love this story, and may even find parts of it preposterous, but will connect to the relationship between Aaron and his pet goat. It has a clear message, that while children should obey their parents, their personal experiences are important, and should be respected as well.