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Posts Tagged ‘the entertainer and the dybbuk’

The Girl (age 11) and I spotted The Entertainer and the Dybbuk by Sid Fleischman awhile back while browsing the stacks at our local library.  We each grabbed a copy and planned to read it together.  I finished the book first (check out my review), while The Girl read it more slowly as part of her daily in-class reading.  A recent class assignment was to write about a book she’d finished, and because she would be presenting it to the class, she had to grab the other students’ attention without giving too much away.  She was excited about this assignment because she’d had some practice, having reviewed books here for the past couple of years.

Here are her thoughts:

In The Entertainer and the Dybbuk, a young Jewish boy who died at the hands of a bloodthirsty Nazi seeks his revenge. This is a fiction novel by Sid Fleischman. The main characters are the Great Freddie, who is a horrible ventriloquist, and the dybbuk, a Jewish spirit who was killed along with his sister in WWII.  The setting is pretty much all over the place because the Great Freddie is a traveling ventriloquist, but it mostly takes place on a train and in theaters in Europe and the United States.  The most interesting part to me was the court scene at the end of the book, when the dybbuk comes face to face with the Nazi officer who murdered him.  I suggest this book for Jr. High readers who are interested in ghosts and WWII history.

I was thrilled when she came home from school on Monday and told me she received an A+ on her book presentation!  Yea!

Disclosure: The Girl borrowed The Entertainer and the Dybbuk from our local library. I am an IndieBound affiliate and an Amazon associate.

© 2011 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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“Anyway pal, I’ve never heard of a ghost in short pants.”

“Excuse me, there are lots of us.  Did they keep it a secret from you in the army?  The Holocaust?  Adolf Hitler — may he ch0ke forever on herring bones!  You didn’t hear he told his Nazi meshuggeners, those lunatics, ‘Soldiers of Germany, have some fun and go murder a million and a half Jewish kids?  All ages!  Babies, fine.  Girls with ribbons in their hair, why not?  Boys in short pants, like Avrom Amos Poliakov?  That’s me, and how do you do?  No, I wasn’t old enough for long pants.  Me, not yet a bar mitzvah boy when the long-nosed German SS officer shot me and left me in the street to bleed to death.  So, behold, you see a dybbuk in short pants, not yet thirteen but older’n God.”

(from The Entertainer and the Dybbuk, page 5)

Freddie T. Birch is a former sergeant in the U.S. Army, a bombardier during World War II, an orphan with nowhere to go after the war ends.  In 1948, when The Entertainer and the Dybbuk opens, Freddie is a ventriloquist doing shows across Europe and trying to scrape together a living.  After a show in Vienna, The Great Freddie returns to his hotel room to find a dybbuk, the glowing spirit of a Jewish boy killed during the Holocaust.  Avrom Amos Poliakov’s life was cut short before he had begun to live, and now he seeks revenge.

When the dybbuk asks Freddie if he can borrow his body, Freddie refuses, but he doesn’t stand a chance against the spirit, who is made strong by grief and hatred.  However, the two find that they need one another, especially Freddie, who is booed during his shows because he moves his lips when throwing his voice.  His act improves and generates much attention when the dybbuk supplies the voice of the dummy, but Freddie will receive more than a career boost from the dybbuk.

The Entertainer and the Dybbuk is a short book for younger readers that aims to introduce them to the Holocaust through a boy with whom they can identify and a supernatural plot that will grab their attention from the first page.  Avrom once led a carefree life with his parents and his sister, but then he is forced to hide and run to avoid being captured by the Nazis.  Because he was gunned down before his bar mitzvah ceremony, he will be forever a child, and readers are forced to think about the future he could have had if the Nazis had not wanted Jews, young and old, to be eliminated.

I’m not sure about the author’s story, but Sid Fleischman obviously has been personally affected by the Holocaust.  Although the story is told simply and quickly for the benefit of younger readers, there is so much emotion and even bitterness in his words…and yet, it never feels too heavy to bear because of the little bits of humor he has the dybbuk add to the stage show, particularly jokes about the Nazis that are amusing and sad at the same time.

The Entertainer and the Dybbuk is a new type of Holocaust story for me; most of what I’ve read are memoirs or fictional accounts of survivors and how they move on, but I’ve never read one about a spirit focused on revenge.  The revenge aspect of the story raises some important questions, taking it beyond a novel for young readers.  When is revenge justified?  Is it ever?  One could say two wrongs don’t make a right, but when you stop and think — really think — about what they went through, how entire families were lost, how many futures were never realized, and how many survivors were unable to move on, is it justified then?

I found The Entertainer and the Dybbuk while perusing the YA section in my local library, and I was drawn to the creepy cover.  However, even though a spirit is the main focus of the novel, the book is not creepy at all.  I highly recommend it for readers of all ages because it is both entertaining and thought-provoking.  Just think of all the discussions you could have with your children while teaching them about a period in history that should never be forgotten.

Disclosure: I borrowed The Entertainer and the Dybbuk from my local library. I am an IndieBound affiliate and an Amazon associate.

© 2011 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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