Phillis Gershator







About me



Wise and not jacket

and Not So Wise

Ten Tales from the Rabbis

selected and retold by Phillis Gershator

designed and illustrated by Alexa Ginsburg

Jewish Publication Society, 2004

*Jewish Book Month Selection, 2004
*National Jewish Book Award Runner-up for Jewish Family Literature, 2005

*Paperback edition, 2009
* Association of Jewish Libraries "Love Your Neighbor" book list, 2018

From the book jacket:
Fanciful stories of wonder and magic fill the pages of Phillis Gershator’s charming collection of tales derived from talmudic and midrashic folklore.
     Inspired by stories recounted by her late father-in-law, a rabbi, Gershator assembles in this volume 10 of her favorites--the ones that made her laugh or touched her with their messages and miracles. Taking spiritual and folkloric elements from the ancient teachings of the sages, she blends in her own humor, magic, and wisdom to put a unique spin on tales that have endured for generations.
     In talmudic fashion, the stories teach moral lessons and truths while sprinkling jokes, surprises, and happy endings throughout. Tales of flying rabbis, miraculous loaves of bread, wise women, muscle-bound angels, and goats that carry bears on their heads will delight children of all ages.
     Alexa Ginsburg’s lighthearted illustrations capture the enchantment of these timeless legends.

A little about the book:

     My late father-in-law introduced me to talmudic tales, one of which I retold in Honi’s Circle of Trees, also published by JPS. I found myself adapting others, and Bruce Black, formerly the Children’s Editor at JPS, suggested I collect them into a book. So I dedicated it to him, and to Janet Greenstein Potter, the incredible editor who reviewed every word and every idea with me and even compiled a glossary for the book, and to David Gershator, my Reader, Advisor, and Constant Collaborator.
     When I saw the book’s design, I loved the concept. Alexa’s pages have the look of a contemporary scroll, with the exception of one story, “Goats for Chickens.” That one looks more like an illuminated manuscript, decorated, appropriately enough, with flying chickens and a few loose feathers!

From the reviews:

“Gershator retells 10 stories plucked from the Jewish Talmud and Mishnah, which, in traditional fashion, open the way for discussion of behavior, miracles, and morality. Dialogue enlivens the often comical stories, and the format is designed for easy access, with stylized, monochomatic art wrapped around well-spaced text. Some [tales] are fairly straightforward. Many, however, are more veiled in meaning. Notes and questions about the stories that conclude each telling will steer kids in the right direction....” Booklist

“An appealing collection of tales...written in simple yet efffective language that preserves their richness and charm without becoming didactic....Each selection ends with a commentary designed to engage readers in the great talmudic tradition of asking and answering questions....The pleasingly flat grayscale illustrations featuring simple graphic themes have a gentle quality that complements and frames the text.” School Library Journal

“Many of Gershator’s questions are weighty and require reflection: At the end of ‘Hanina’s  Stone,’ for example, Gershator poses the question, ‘Is it foolish to dream and then work to make the dream come true, however impractical that dream may be?’ Following another story, the author asks, ‘No matter how wise someone may be, can any one person know what’s right for everyone else?’” The Forward

“This delightful collection of stories adapted from the Talmud and Midrash blends wisdom with humor....every one of these stories begs to be read aloud....the illustrations and inviting format join with the stories to comprise one outstanding package!” Jewish Book World

"These folktales use the teachings of ancient rabbinic sages to answer questions and teach moral lessons, using humor, wonder, and magic."
 AJL “People of the Books” Blog: https://jewishlibraries.org/blog/id/