The Book Rescuer: How a Mensch from Massachusetts Saved Yiddish Literature for Generations to Come

by Sue Macy (Author) Stacy Innerst (Illustrator)

The Book Rescuer: How a Mensch from Massachusetts Saved Yiddish Literature for Generations to Come
Reading Level: 2nd − 3rd Grade

"Stunning."​ --Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"Inspired...[a] journalistic, propulsive narrative." --Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"The story comes alive through the bold acrylic and gouache art." --Booklist (starred review)

From New York Times Best Illustrated Book artist Stacy Innerst and author Sue Macy comes a story of one man's heroic effort to save the world's Yiddish books.

Over the last forty years, Aaron Lansky has jumped into dumpsters, rummaged around musty basements, and crawled through cramped attics. He did all of this in pursuit of a particular kind of treasure, and he's found plenty. Lansky's treasure was any book written Yiddish, the language of generations of European Jews. When he started looking for Yiddish books, experts estimated there might be about 70,000 still in existence. Since then, the MacArthur Genius Grant recipient has collected close to 1.5 million books, and he's finding more every day.

Told in a folkloric voice reminiscent of Patricia Polacco, this story celebrates the power of an individual to preserve history and culture, while exploring timely themes of identity and immigration.


Publishers Weekly

Starred Review

This inspired pairing of two top picture book biographers tells the story of Aaron Lansky, an "all-American boy" (a Star Trek poster decorates his bedroom) who in college became convinced that Yiddish books represented the "portable homeland" of the Jewish people. With Yiddish dying out after the Holocaust and little mainstream support ("Yiddish was a language whose time had passed"), Lansky learned the language, then began saving Yiddish books any way he could. He pulled nearly 5,000 out of a dumpster and accepted "one book at a time" from elderly owners ("We didn't eat much," one book donor tearfully tells him, "but we always bought a book. It was a necessity of life"). Founded in 1980, Lansky's Yiddish Book Center in Amherst, Mass., is today home to 1.5 million rescued books and is a hub of Yiddish studies. Innerst (Ruth Bader Ginsburg), who notes in an afterword that his illustrations were inspired by Chagall, contributes dramatic, textural acrylic and gouache images, with sculptural figures, expressionistic settings, and the deep, rich tones of vintage book bindings. Evoking both a lost past and an urgent present, they're a marvelous complement to the journalistic, propulsive narrative by Macy (Motor Girls). Ages 5-8. (Oct.)

Copyright 2019 Publishers Weekly, LLC Used with permission.

School Library Journal

Gr 1-4--Aaron Lansky could not forget what his grandmother told him as a child. At the age of 16, she immigrated to the United States from Eastern Europe. In his twenties, Lansky decided to find out more about his grandmother's stories, which set him on a journey to learn how to speak and read Yiddish and to also locate Yiddish books. The result is the Yiddish Book Center in Amherst, MA. Lansky's story is a fascinating one, filled with book rescues and meeting older people who not only treasure books but what they represent. His disappointments and rewards in pursuing this passion are well portrayed. The narrative is both informative and engaging and includes Yiddish words, many of which have been incorporated into English. All appear in a glossary. An afterword by Lansky himself brings the Center and his work up to date. Illustrations intentionally call to mind the bold line and semi-abstraction of Russian-born artist Marc Chagall. VERDICT A potentially valuable addition to both school and public libraries as well as Jewish schools. Echoing Carole Boston Weatherford's Schomburg: The Man Who Built a Library, the book's narrative shows that pursuing interests can lead to meaningful and long-lasting results.--Maria B. Salvadore, formerly at District of Columbia Public Library

Copyright 2019 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

Review quotes


Sue Macy
Sue Macy loves to write about sports and fearless women. Her books have been named ALA Notable Children's Books and Best Books for Young Adults, Booklist Editor's Choices, and New York Public Library Books for the Teen Age. She lives in Englewood, New Jersey. Visit her online at www.suemacy.com.

Matt Collins has illustrated numerous books for children. His art has also appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, and Sports Illustrated for Kids. His website is www.mattcollins.com.

Classification
Non-fiction
ISBN-13
9781481472203
Lexile Measure
890L
Guided Reading Level
N/A
Publication date
October 20, 2019
Series
-

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