Lemuel the Fool

by Myron Uhlberg (Author) Sonja Lamut (Illustrator)

Lemuel the Fool
Reading Level: 2nd − 3rd Grade
After journeying around the world in search of the magical city of his dreams, Lemuel discovers there's no place like home.

"At night, while the other villagers dreamed of catching fish, Lemuel dreamed of sailing over the horizon."

Lemuel is a fisherman and a fool. When he sets out on a journey across the sea, he makes sure to tie a red scarf on the bow and a rope to the stern; with the scarf waving before him and the rope trailing behind, he'll always know he's going the right direction. Disoriented after a storm, Lemuel lands near a strange new village--except that it's strangely familiar, down to the woman who looks exactly like his own dear wife and even calls him by name.

Later that night, a very confused Lemuel sets sail for home and away from the madness. With the red scarf before him and the rope trailing behind, he's confident he'll arrive at home again--and be safely back among the familiar.

Young readers will enjoy the silly charm of Lemuel's journey, beautifully illustrated by Sonja Lamut.

School Library Journal

K-Gr 4-Lemuel lives in a small fishing village but dreams of the wonderful city that must lie just beyond the horizon. His practical wife tires of his musings, but does not stop her husband when he decides to build a boat and set sail for the enchanted city. Leaving enough salted fish to feed his family in his absence, the man sets out, keeping his way by watching the scarf he has tied to the bow of his ship and the rope that trails behind. Predictably, gentle chaos ensues when he arrives back at his own village, but, fool that he is, he assumes that this new town, thought so exotic in his dreams, proves that things are "the same the world over." He even eats at his own table, marveling that the exact double of his beloved Essie knows his name. When night falls, he sets a course for home, making sure that the scarf stays ahead and the rope trails behind. Landing at a familiar beach, Lemuel rushes home, full of tales of his adventure. Essie welcomes him again saying, "Of course you're home, you fool.-Where else in the world could you possibly be?" This quietly humorous ending will draw smiles from listeners. The framed, softly painted illustrations give the book an albumlike quality that heightens the sense of old-world fantasy. Lemuel is a kind and earnest-looking fool, and his wife smiles patiently at his antics. Story and pictures combine to form a fine choice for most collections.

Copyright 2001 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

Publisher's Weekly

Uhlberg (Flying Over Brooklyn) polishes a gem from the treasure trove of Jewish folklore with this snappy adaptation of a Chelm tale. While others in his fishing village dream of "a rich, finny harvest," the feckless Lemuel dreams of visiting "an enchanted, magical city." Soon, despite his eminently sensible wife's protests, he builds a boat and sets sail. Hampered by a storm and a silly navigational scheme, he fetches up on a shore that looks remarkably familiar. Although everything is identical to the place he just left, Lemuel is sure he has arrived in the enchanted village, and even a woman who's "the precise twin of his own wife" is unable to convince him otherwise. Headed for home once again, he falls asleep in his boat, and sure enough, come morning he sights land–none other than his own dear village, where he greets everyone exuberantly. Uhlberg's dryly understated humor maximizes the comedy as well as readers' affection for the hapless hero and his doltish scheme. Lamut (How Many Candles?) makes a great leap forward with these graceful illustrations. Painted on a textured, linen-like surface, her old-world scenes are jazzed up by the variety in presentation: some fill the entire page, others appear as smaller vignettes with the action and props popping out of borders. Visions of the "enchanted city" appear in ethereal white lines. Fresh and diverting. Ages 4-8.

Copyright 2001 Publisher’s Weekly, LLC Used with permission.
Lexile Measure
Guided Reading Level
Publication date
August 20, 2021
Age Range
4 - 8 years
Sydney Taylor Book Award - Notable
None None

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