BOOK REVIEWS

Golem (Caldecott Medal Book) Reviews

UPDATE TIME: 2017-09-20 
Review Score: 4 out of 5 star From 42 user ratings
ISBN:0395726182
LANGUAGE:English

"While I definitely much appreciate both the historical and the religious background of David Wisiniewski's Golem (and can in all ways understand how and why he won the Caldecott Medal for his expressive and intense, colourful, evocative illustrations, illustrations that are bold, immediate, emotion-laden and very much both a mirror to and an expansion of the narrative, of the accompanying text), I also do not really and cannot really claim that I all that much enjoy Golem as a tale in and of itself (and it is actually more the illustrations than the printed words I find potentially too frightening and almost too intense in nature, although even with regard to the text, there are issues presented and shown that I find problematatic and open to question, and as such not really all that suitable or even approachable for children below the ages of seven or eight, perhaps even nine or ten).

As very much an adamant pacifist, the message that violence is necessary to combat violence or the threat of violence (via means of the super-strong and supernatural monster-like Golem), while to a point definitely understandable from a historical and realistic point of view (the Jews of Prague were in peril, were being relentlessly and with brutality and lies persecuted without mercy) also leaves me rather majorly uncomfortable, although I do appreciate that Rabbi Loew does recognise that what he has created, that what he has called forth has caused, is causing much too much danger and destruction, all important and even necessary points for discussion, analysis and debate, but are these here themes not perhaps somewhat above and beyond the traditional picture book crowd (not to mention that the Golem, that Joseph, after he has served his purpose, it simply destroyed, even though life has become precious to him, a necessary act perhaps, but also sad and even infuriating and really, inherently unfair and unjust in many ways).

That being said, and my issues with the level of textual savagery and the possible over-intensiveness of the accompanying illustrations notwithstanding, I do highly recommend Golem and find especially David Wisniewski's informative supplemental note exceedingly well researched, informative, simply and utterly outstanding (although the hopeless academic in me would have enjoyed and also kind of missed a bibliography, list of works cited and suggestions for further reading). And please do note that while I personally tend to think that Golem is not really all that suitable for children below at least the ages of seven or eight, that is my own feeling, my own reaction to the text/image combination, and I would NEVER in any way desire to impose this attitude on others (I just know that if I had had Golem read to me as a younger child, I would more than likely have had nightmares and a great many potentially uncomfortable questions, such as for example, if the danger faced by the Jews of 16th century Prague was dire enough to call forth the Golem, why was the Golem then not called forth during the Holocaust).
" said.

" Set in Prague in the 1500's, a rabbi of threatened Jews brings a clay guardian to life to protect the Jews. " said.

" I read this as a young girl and it made a very deep impression. A masterfully told and ultimately bittersweet story about ethics and what it means to be human. " said.

"The plot in the story “Golem” by David Wisniewski is about a man who was shaped out of clay by a Rabbi and then the Rabbi brought him to life. The Golem was to vanquish those who persecuted the Jews of Prague and then was later turn back into clay at the end of the story. I particularly don’t know how to rate this book because I loved the artwork, but disliked the storyline. The illustrations in this book were very dark and mysterious which went along with the plot perfectly. Also, the picture colors changed to a dramatic fire orange and red as the Golem wounded those who persecuted the Jews. All in all the illustrations were stunning to me as a reader! However in my opinion the storyline was directed towards an adult audience and was pretty scary. I feel like Golem would not be appropriate for younger readers." said.

" Beautiful cut-paper illustrations, a solid and concise story (probably best for 5-8 year-old children), and a nice 11-paragraph note at the end about the Golem legend within the context of Kabbalah and in connection with Rabbit Loew ben Bezalel. Best line was the Rabbi's: "Would a people who celebrate the end of their own slavery wish to inflict slavery on others?" If you're not Jewish or interested in the legend of the Golem, at least check this one out for the incredible papercutting! " said.

"While I can appreciate the historical and religious background of the story, the lessons it teaches and the illustrations, I can't say I enjoy this book. Wisniewski is, undoubtedly, a talented artist. I am left feeling disconcerted and troubled after reading the book...it's deeply troubling that Jews have been so mistreated and misunderstood in so many places throughout history. So it's understandable that they would feel the need to protect themselves, hence the creation of the golem by Rabbi Loew. Wisniewski purposefully uses dark colors, blacks and browns and reds, to create tension and show the despair of the people. It makes the book seem dark, gloomy and without hope...which is appropriate based on many of the events...but (go ahead and call me a Pollyanna), I like to see the hope shining through the darkness and to me that is what is missing in this story. It is dark pretty much throughout (both the tone and the illustrations) with little hint of light or improvement or better days to come. I can see the reasoning behind it but it still limits my enjoyment although not my appreciation." said.

" The artwork is beautiful, the story a bit too profound for a picture book. Still, a must read for anyone who is interested in the history of Jews in Europe. 1997 Caldecott Medal Winner " said.

" Unique illustrations and story. I was kind of sad the ending ended how it did. Perhaps a Golem Returns sequel (hint hint Wisniewski) can redeem it. My husband read this book to me with a Rabi voice so that might have made me love it more. " said.

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