Book Review | Dan and the Mudman
by Jonny Zucker

Score: 3

by Jonny Zucker

© 2009, Frances Lincoln Children’s Books

Dan Bernstein’s family moves to a small town far outside of London, and he faces a number of lifestyle changes. None, however, challenges him as much as the blatant anti-Semitism of the class bully, Steve, or so he thinks. When his class project on long-distance running, turns into something quite different and totally out of his control, Dan begins the rare and strange adventure back through time and Jewish history that is at the core of this fascinating and engaging novel.

What Dan creates by hand and almost unconsciously is a golem. Actually, not any golem, but The Golem, the legendary 16th century Golem created and brought to life by Rabbi Judah Loew in Prague, Czechoslovakia (although in the book, the Rabbi’s name is Rabbi Loeb.) The Golem takes Dan along – back in time – to witness and assist in a variety of situations where Jews are at risk. The result of these “trips” and Dan’s modern day confrontations with Steve, result in a class project that is as full of impact as it is memorable for all concerned. It should be noted that Dan’s friend Lucy manages to secretly “join” him on these trips.

The only shortcoming in this powerful little book is the small sermonizing at the end when Rabbi Loeb arrives to remind Dan and his friend, Lucy, that they must “follow the path of peace,” and that “In Bosnia, in Rwanda, in Darfur, the vulnerable have been attacked mercilessly.” The author had made the important points clearly in the way he wrote about Dan’s handling of his many experiences, the reactions of the class to Dan’s (and now Lucy’s as well) presentation and the response of the school to all they saw and heard. That was powerful enough, no further proselytizing was necessary.

Grade Level: 4th – 8th

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