Reviews for Raisel's Riddle


Booklist Monthly Selections - #1 May 1999
/*Starred Review*/ Ages 5^-9. A lovely re-imagining of the Cinderella story, with a fine twist. Raisel lives in a tiny village in Poland with her grandfather, a poor scholar. When Zaydeh dies, Raisel goes to town to seek work and finds it in the kitchen of a famed rabbi. But the cook mistreats her and keeps her from the Purim party. That night, when Raisel gives her supper to an old woman, the beggar grants her three wishes. Raisel, who then goes to the Purim party costumed as Queen Esther and enchants the rabbi's son with her riddle, is wise enough to keep one wish back and uses it for cleaning the kitchen when she returns at midnight. The next day the rabbi's son searches for her, and Raisel, locked in the pantry, calls out her riddle: "What's more precious than rubies, more lasting than gold? / What can never be traded, stolen, or sold? / What comes with great effort and takes time, but then--/ Once yours, will serve you again and again?" The rabbi's son knows the answer, which is "learning," and so they "lived and learned happily ever after." The illustrations in velvety, muted colors make use of strong geometric shapes and varying perspectives: we see Raisel and her Zaydeh through a window studying together; the nasty cook looming over Raisel in the rabbi's kitchen; and dramatic close-ups of Raisel and the beggar woman and a gorgeous one of Raisel dressed as Queen Esther with the rabbi's son. This universal story fits into its Jewish milieu as neatly as a key in a lock. ((Reviewed May 1, 1999)) Copyright 2000 Booklist Reviews

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Horn Book Magazine Reviews 1999 #2
Silverman's Cinderella is no victim suffering helplessly before the hearth. Although Raisel must labor as the nasty cook's helper in the rabbi's home where she finds employment after her grandfather's death, she has been taught well by her Zaydeh about the value of study: "It is written that learning is more precious than rubies, more lasting than gold. Rubies may be lost and gold stolen, but what you learn is yours forever." The jealous cook shuts Raisel out from the Purim festivities as she lingers listening to the celebrants tell riddles, yet Raisel's kindness to a beggar woman, a stand-in for her godmother, wins her reentry as the transformed and beautiful Queen Esther. But it is Raisel's intelli-gence, not her beauty, that entrances the princely Rabbi's son. She turns her Zaydeh's truth about the value of study into a riddle that she poses to the rabbi's son, and it is the riddle-no glass slippers here-that will identify the woman he seeks as his bride when Raisel disappears at midnight. (And, once he finds her, the rabbi's son must answer her riddle before she will agree to marry him.) Artist Gaber conveys a folkish simplicity with a sophisticated line to evoke a Poland of dreams and reality in which, at book's end, the happy couple float Chagall-like among flower blossoms, living and learning "happily ever after." s.p.b. Copyright 1999 Horn Book Magazine Reviews

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Kirkus Reviews 1999 January #2
Silverman (The Halloween House, 1997, etc.) tells of Raisel, an orphan girl who is raised by her scholarly grandfather until his death; three wishes from an old beggar woman allow Raisel to attend the Purim play dressed as Queen Esther, where she captures the attention of the rabbi's son. It is her clever riddle about the precious nature of learning, however, that eventually wins his heart. Carefully crafted, this story not only entertains, but it teaches readers about the Jewish holiday, Purim, Queen Esther, and the tradition of costumed re-enactment. Unlike a majority of the other versions of the Cinderella story, this one does not include a self-absorbed prince who combs the countryside looking for a bride of a particular shoe size; refreshingly, Silverman's hero is as intelligent as he is handsome, and seeks a bride who is his equal. Graber's illustrations are the perfectly complement, embodying Raisel's transformation from a life of servitude to one of riches ``more precious than rubies.'' (Picture book. 5-8) Copyright 1999 Kirkus Reviews

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Publishers Weekly Reviews 1999 February #4
Starring a Jewish orphan in a long-ago Polish village, this colorful, expertly structured variation on Cinderella offers many things: an independent-minded heroine plus a hero attracted by wisdom and virtue; a fairy-tale patina plus old-world ambiance; and a tie-in to Purim that grounds the story without limiting its appeal. Raisel is not immediately recognizable as a Cinderella type. Raised by her grandfather, a poor but devout scholar, she has studied right alongside him. When he dies, she finds work in a faraway village as the helper to a rabbi's cook, a jealous and harsh woman who could rival any evil stepmother. Silverman (Don't Fidget a Feather) maintains impeccable pacing, characterization and once-upon-a-time diction as Raisel catches the eye of the rabbi's learned son, and, through an act of kindness, earns three wishes on Purim. Enter a costume and magical transportation, and the Cinderella parallel pops out, to surprise and delight young readers. Raisel uses her wishes wisely and wins the love of the rabbi's son; unlike Cinderella, this maiden sets a test for her beloved, and it brings the story full-circle to its flavorful beginnings. Gaber (Bit by Bit) underscores the text's emphasis on the characters' inner resources. Her paintings find the warmth in Raisel's companionship with her grandfather, despite the modest surroundings, and they pay more attention to Raisel as a scullery maid than to her appearance in the magical costume. A splendid story, intelligently served. Ages 5-8. (Mar.) Copyright 1999 Publishers Weekly Reviews

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