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

By: Sue Macy

Illustrator: Stacy Innerst

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. 



Author’s note. Illustrator’s note. Yiddish glossary. Suggestions for further information. Source notes. Full-color illustrations rendered in acrylic and gouache, with fabric textures added digitally.

ISBN: 9781481472203

JLG Release: Nov 2019


Sensitive Areas: Anti-Semitism
Topics: Aaron Lansky (1955– ) , US National Yiddish Book Center , Book collectors , Biography , New Bedford, Massachusetts , Jewish men , Revival of the Yiddish language , Books , Cultural heritage

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Praise & Reviews

Starred or favorable reviews have been received from these periodicals:

Publishers Weekly*, School Library Journal, The Horn Book Magazine

School Library Journal

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 Y 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. 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.

Horn Book

Kum aher. Sit down. I want to tell you a story.” With a storyteller’s cadence, Macy (Miss Mary Reporting, rev. 1/16; Trudy’s Big Swim, rev. 7/17) explains how Aaron Lansky came to collect the thousands of books now housed in the Yiddish Book Center in Amherst, Massachusetts. Through an anecdote from Lansky’s family h Kum aher. Sit down. I want to tell you a story.” With a storyteller’s cadence, Macy (Miss Mary Reporting, rev. 1/16; Trudy’s Big Swim, rev. 7/17) explains how Aaron Lansky came to collect the thousands of books now housed in the Yiddish Book Center in Amherst, Massachusetts. Through an anecdote from Lansky’s family history as well as a brief historical overview of why the number of Yid¬dish speakers has dwindled, Macy gives context to Lansky’s difficulty in finding Yiddish novels for his college studies. That difficulty led him to collect books first for his own purposes, then for the Center (which he founded) starting in 1980. Stories of how he obtained them—meetings “over tea and cake and lokshn kugl” with older Jews; a late-night dash to a dumpster—lend both human interest and a sense of urgency to the mission. Innerst’s (The Beatles Were Fab (and They Were Funny), rev. 5/13) painterly illustrations (in acrylic and gouache, with fabric tex¬tures rendered digitally, and, according to an illustrator’s note, inspired by Marc Chagall), give readers plenty to peruse, with sprinkled Yiddish words and visual references to Jewish history and culture. Detailed back matter also includes notes from Lansky and Macy, a glossary, further resources, and source notes.

Book Details

ISBN

9781481472203

First Release

November 2019

Genre

Nonfic

Dewey Classification

B

Trim Size

11" x 8"

Page Count

48

Accelerated Reader

Level 0; Points: 0;

Scholastic Reading Counts

Level 0; Points: 0;

Lexile

Level 890L

Format

Print Book

Edition

Hardcover edition

Publisher

Paula Wiseman

Potentially Sensitive Areas

Anti-Semitism

Topics

Aaron Lansky (1955– ), US National Yiddish Book Center, Book collectors, Biography, New Bedford, Massachusetts, Jewish men, Revival of the Yiddish language, Books, Cultural heritage,

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