Book Review | The Entertainer and the Dybbuk
by Sid Fleischman

Score: 5

© 2003, Greenwillow Books.

Winner of the 2003 Sydney Taylor Book Award for Older Readers.  What have we here? A ghost story? An account of demonic possession? Yet another Holocaust story? Actually, it’s a fantastically written, highly engaging, out-of-the-ordinary Holocaust tale that kids, especially boys, will love, by Newbery Award winning author Sid Fleischman (z’l).

The un-reconciled soul of a 12-year-old boy, Avrom Amos, murdered by the Nazis, comes back to earth and enters the body of a ventriloquist, The Great Freddie. Avrom wants to educate the world about the fate of the 1.5 million children who were murdered, find his killer, bring him to justice, then have the Bar Mitzvah he was denied as a result of his death. Then, he can rest. How he manages these tasks with and without the cooperation of the ventriloquist – who is not Jewish – makes for a highly entertaining story.

The writing in this relatively short (180 pages, largish print) book is highly descriptive, extremely poignant  and very evocative. In setting it directly following World War II, the characters travel throughout a Europe redolent with the sights and smells of war. By allowing Avrom to “take over” The Great Freddie during his act plays on the sympathy of a post-war crowd. Throwing in an ex-girlfriend for Freddie, further complicates, but also adds some hilarity to the story. In the end, of course, justice is served and everyone gets what they deserve.

Children’s literature lost a fabulous advocate and extraordinary writer, with the passing of Sid Fleischman on March 17, 2010 just one day after his 90th birthday. I had the honor and pleasure of meeting him at the award banquet where he was presented with his Sydney Taylor award for this book. I do not recall ever meeting such a kind, gracious and humble author.  I am glad he left us with the voice of Avrom Amos to speak for the 1.5 Million Jewish children who lost their lives in the Holocaust. It is a fitting legacy for such a gifted author.

Grade Level: 5th – 8th

©2010 Kathleen M. Bloomfield and all rights reserved.
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