About The Book
“In the middle of the night on a Thursday, two crooks — onions should grow in their navels — drove their horse and wagon to the saloon of Reb Elias Olschwanger at the corner of Fourteenth and Carr Streets in St. Louis. This didn’t happen yesterday. It was 1919.”
Author: Anna Olswanger
Illustrator: Paula Goodman Koz
Year Published: 2009
Publisher: NewSouth Books
Recommended Age: 7+
Summary (From Amazon): Shlemiel Crooks is the story of Reb Elias and the thieves who try to steal his Passover wine. Based on a true story about Anna’s great-grandfather Elias Olschwanger, Shlemiel Crooks is an imaginative introduction to the history of Passover, as Pharaoh and a town of Jewish immigrants play tug-of-war with wine made from grapes left over from the Exodus from Egypt. In Yiddish-inflected English, punctuated by colorful curses, the language of a Jewish community of another time comes alive for readers of all ages. Shlemiel Crooks is a Sydney Taylor Honor Book and PJ Library Book.
“You should be so lucky as to find a Passover story that combines a surprisingly droll exposition of the flight from Egypt (right down to the pilfered raisins), with an account of the foolish crooks in St. Louis, who, in 1919, really did try to steal some of the special spirits Reb Elias Olschwanger had ordered for sale before the holiday. Well told and illustrated.” ~ The New York Times Book Review
“This is one of my favorite Jewish books! The storytelling is delightful and the language is so authentic, you really can hear the accent, see the characters and smell the liqueur in the store.The crooks outsmart themselves and that incident, based on a true story from the author’s family’s history makes the paper… The illustrations done in woodcut are gorgeous. This is a children’s book but the humor and wit will be enjoyed just as much by adults.” ~ 5-Star review from Amalia, Goodreads
“Part of the plot includes an idiosyncratic version of the Exodus, told by members of the Talmud Society that Reb Olschwanger leads. Familiarity with the actual biblical account is needed to enjoy this parody, but no prior experience is needed to find the ‘shtuss’ raised by the neighbors hilarious. Dayenu—a quirky story is just the beginning! Yinglish imbues the story with a distinctive cadence, created by some Yiddish words like ‘gonif’ and ‘gevalt’ and even more by a Yiddish-inflected narrative voice replete with curses (‘worms should hold a wedding in their bellies’), questions instead of statements (‘You think only Pharaoh knew how to play a little dirty?’), self-corrections (‘But after Mr. Balfour—excuse me, Lord Balfour . . .’), and exclamations like ‘Listen,’ ‘Hoo-ha!,’ and ‘Such a tummel . . .!” ~ Association of Jewish Libraries Newsletter
“A delightful book in every way. Lyrically written and lavishly illustrated, Shlemiel Crooks weaves together the Passover story, old St. Louis and gentle humor to produce a “read it again” story.” ~ 5-Star review from Elka M. Weber, Amazon US
“This delightful story is based on a true incident reported in the St. Louis Jewish Record in 1919, in which Reb Elias Oschwanger’s liquor store was almost robbed of its Passover wine (brought in from the Land of Israel no less) by a couple of inept thieves. But that’s not the whole story because Reb Elias also recounts his own version of the exodus from Egypt, with the Hebrews absconding with linen and jewels and raisins—raisins? Anyway, you remember the part where Pharaoh chases after the Israelites and ends up in the Red Sea? Turns out his ghost is still wandering around St. Louis of all places, whispering in the ears of the crooks who go rob the store, only they get scared off by some noisy neighbors and a talking horse. This tale is a pleasure and a hoot; it rings so true with the voice of a Yiddish grandmother that it’s practically historic fiction (minus the ghost). The boldly colored, expressive illustrations enhance the humor so you shouldn’t get bored.” ~ School Library Journal
“Beautifully illustrated and wonderfully written, just full of charm. Very inventive and sure to please. A wonderful way to entertain your child and introduce them to the Yiddish venacular…hilarious and heartwarming all at once!” ~ 5-Star review from Aliana Brewer, Amazon US
* For more excerpts from the 25+ reviews of Shlemiel Crooks please visit www.ShlemielCrooks.com *
Purchase the Book
Shlemiel Crooks is available in Hardcover and Paperback format from Amazon and the Book Depository:
About The Author: Anna Olswanger
Anna Olswanger based Shlemiel Crooks, her first children’s book, on a Yiddish newspaper article she uncovered about the attempted robbery of her great-grandfather’s kosher liquor store in St. Louis in 1919. This is the English translation of the article:
Reb Eliyahu Olschwanger Almost Robbed
Shlimazel crooks, their work was unsuccessful. Last Thursday at 3:00 a.m. in the middle of the night, several men drove to the saloon of Reb Eliyahu Olschwanger at the corner of 14th and Carr Streets. They opened the saloon and removed several barrels of brandy and beer. Mr. Mankel who lives on the second floor, upon hearing what was going on in the saloon, opened the window and began shouting for help. Benjamin Resnik from 1329 Carr Street, hearing the shouting, shot his revolver from his window. The band of crooks got scared and left everything, including their own horse and wagon and ran away. Police immediately came and took everything to the police station.
What could be funnier than crooks who left with less than they came with?! From that Yiddish article, Anna created Shlemiel Crooks (not Shlimazel Crooks like in the article, as she suspected that “shlemiel” was a more widely known word). After adding the ghost of Pharaoh, the prophet Elijah, and a talking horse to the story, she was in business. Shlemiel Crooks is a Sydney Taylor Honor Book and PJ Library Book. A family musical based on Shlemiel Crooks premiered at New York’s Merkin Concert Hall in 2011. Anna is also the author of Greenhorn (NewSouth Books). She lives in the New York metropolitan area and is a literary agent with Liza Dawson Associates.
Author Website: www.olswanger.com
Book Website: www.shlemielcrooks.com
Goodreads: Anna Olswanger
* Three Giveaways *
You can enter THREE GIVEAWAYS for 7 CHANCES to win a signed, hardcover copy of Shlemiel Crooks by Anna Olswanger.
Goodreads First Reads Giveaway
You can enter the First Reads Giveaway for Shlemiel Crooks hosted by Goodreads for your chance to win 1 of 5 signed, hardcover copies of Shlemiel Crooks. Open US. Ends April 12, 2013.
Giveaway on the Blog, Cynsations
You can enter the Giveaway hosted by the blog, Cynsations for your chance to win a copy of Shlemiel Crooks as well as a copy of Anna Olswanger’s other book Greenhorn. Open North America. Ends April 1, 2013.
Mother Daughter Book Reviews Giveaway
Prize: One hardcover copy of Shlemiel Crooks signed by Anna Olswanger
Contest closes: April 10th, 11:59 pm, 2013
How to enter: Please enter using the Rafflecopter widget below.
Terms and Conditions: A randomly drawn winner will be contacted by email within 48 hours after the giveaway ends. The winner will have 72 hours to respond. If the winner does not respond within 72 hours, a new draw will take place for a new winner. If you have any additional questions – feel free to send us an email!
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* This is a post sponsored through Mother Daughter Book Reviews’ Book Promotion Program. All books accepted into the program are pre-screened as described HERE and are only accepted into the program if they are rated at least 4 stars by me.*