What to expect: Light-hearted, family adventure, Jewish culture and history
In A Gefilte Fishy Tale, Jack and his grandmother return from the grocery store one Friday morning with his favorite dish for their Shabbat meal: gefilte fish. But the jar of whitefish, carp, and pike won’t open—it has “a dreadful case of liddy-stuck-atosis.” The two then trek across town, along with Jack’s grandfather and their lovable dog Butterscotch, as everyone from their dentist to a bodybuilder attempts to open the jar in a romp of futility. Finally, as Shabbat nears—and after the whole family has also tried and failed to open the jar—Jack says the magic word, the jar pops open, and everyone sits down for dinner. The tale is one of community and perseverance, with the little guy ultimately triumphing. Kids will rejoice when one of the youngest and smallest of the bunch comes to the rescue.
Both parents and children will enjoy the book’s poetic rhythm and rhyme, reminiscent of Chris Van Dusen’s Circus Ship and Giles Andreae’s Giraffes Can’t Dance:
Bubbe Judy bought a jar Of fresh gefilte fish -- The star of every Shabbos, Her grandson’s favorite dish!
The lyrical text is matched by whimsical illustrations with entertaining facial expressions and discussion-worthy detail throughout.
A Gefilte Fishy Tale contains a playful smattering of Yiddish words, some all but adopted into American English (such as “schlep” as a synonym for “lug”) and others that might be new to readers (like “schvitz” for “sweat”). At the front of the book sits a handy pronunciation guide for the uninitiated. Kids will like watching their parents sound out words, practice new letter combinations and trip over their own tongues: pre-literacy modeling of the highest order.
Though it’s mainly intended for toddlers and beginning readers, slightly older children are sure to enjoy the story and images as well. Add in an original song for Shabbat and a gefilte fish mini-muffin recipe, and A Gefilte Fishy Tale offers lots of amusement—along with some cultural education—for any family.
CLEVELAND JEWISH NEWS Husband and wife writing duo Allison and Wayne Marks of Akron published their latest children’s picture book “A Gefilte Fishy Tale.” The rhyming book tells the tale of a family’s humorous attempts to open a stuck jar of gefilte fish before the Shabbat meal. It also includes a recipe for gefilte fish muffins, an original Shabbat song and a glossary of Yiddish words. Renee Andriani’s colorful illustrations tie the whole piece together into a heartwarming tale that’s sure to become a family favorite.
THE JEWISH BOOK COUNCIL, Sandy Lanton
[A] delightful rhyming tale filled with Yiddish expressions. . . . The cartoon-like illustrations by Renée Andriani add to the fun. A glossary of Yiddish words, a gefilte fish mini-muffin recipe, and an original Shabbat song included in the text enhance the book’s appeal.
ASSOCIATION OF JEWISH LIBRARIES, RENA CITRIN, HEAD LIBRARIAN; BERNARD ZELL ANSHE EMET DAY SCHOOL, CHICAGO
Marks, Allison and Wayne Marks. A Gefilte Fishy Tale, Illus. by Renee Andriani. Bethesda, MD: MB Publishing, LLC, 2016. 44 pp. $11.95. PBK (9780990843009). Preschool - Gr. 2.
Never before have the trials and tribulations of opening a jar of gefilte fish in time for Shabbat been so much fun! Using rhyming text in both English and Yiddish, the authors have created a slapstick day of adventure. Bubbe (Grandmother) and Zayde (Grandfather) use ice, a vise, and even pickle juice to open the jar. Nothing works! They enlist the help of friends and neighbors — the bodybuilder, the inventor, the auto repairman, the doctor, the dentist and even the fisherman — but the lid will not budge. Finally, their grandson, Jack, is successful when he intones the magic word, “please,” just in time for Shabbat dinner. The illustrations in A Gefilte Fishy Tale are reminiscent of the style and color palette of The Berenstain Bears series. All of the characters have expressive faces that help to make the lap sit child or story time audience want to see what happens next. Common Yiddish words are scattered throughout the rhyming quatrain text (challah, kugel, maven, noodle, nosh, schmeared, tsuris and more.) A fun, visual glossary appears at the beginning of the story instead of its usual placement at the end. A bonus recipe for gefilte fish mini muffins and an original song with music, “Shabbat a Lot,” appear at the end.
AKRON BEACON JOURNAL NOVEMBER 24, 2016
Family in a pickle in ‘Fishy Tale’
All the family wants to do is sit down to Bubbe Judy’s delicious Shabbos meal with its highlight, gefilte fish. In A Gefilte Fishy Tale, a delightful storybook by Akron authors Allison and Wayne Marks, there’s tsuris (trouble) when Bubbe can’t open the jar. Oy! Everybody in the family takes a crack at it, using every method imaginable.
Then the neighbors lend a hand, but the next-door bodybuilder can’t remove the lid either, nor the inventor with his huge Rube Goldberg-style apparatus, nor the dentist with his extraction pliers. Finally, Zayde (grandfather) proposes that they simply buy another jar, but Kosher Mart is closed by the time they arrive. It falls to grandson Jack to solve the problem.
A Gefilte Fishy Tale (50 pages, softcover) costs $11.95 from MB Publishing. Wayne Marks is a proofreader and copywriter; Allison Marks has been the librarian at Temple Israel. The illustrator, Renée Andriani, lives in Kansas.
I thought a book titled A Gefilte Fishy Tale was going to be too lightweight for this blog, but this little book turned out to be a delight (and we are in the midst of a Jewish holiday season, after all). Told in rhyme by Allison and Wayne Marks, it’s a silly story of a family who can’t get a jar of gefilte fish open. Seems to me you’d want to keep it that way, since GF is definitely an, um, acquired taste. But the Seuss-like rhythm and rhyme really make a game of getting the jar to give up its goods. The illustrations by Renee Andriani are cartoonish but fun, and most importantly this book will broaden young children’s cultural vista with its Yiddish terms and Jewish customs woven through. Pre-readers (the book is targeted for children 2-8) will love learning the rhymes, and there’s a two-page illustrated list of Yiddish terms with a pronunciation guide for kids to have fun with. (One of those words is “challah,” which is what I’m sticking with this holiday season.)
A Gefilte Fishy Tale is 52 pages long, and was published by MB Publishing in August.
Peter Marino is an English professor at SUNY Adirondack. His novels for young adults Dough Boy (2005) and Magic and Misery (2009) have been nominated by the American Library Association for Best Books for Young Adults. Magic and Misery made Booklist's Top 10 Fiction for Youth (2010) and the ALA Round Table’s Rainbow Books Bibliography.
The Pirate Tree is a collective of children’s and young adult writers interested in children’s literature and social justice issues.
READERS' FAVORITE, 5 STARS, Carla Truehart
A Gefilte Fishy Tale by authors Allison and Wayne Marks is a unique children’s book with a fun theme that should please both children and adults alike! This adorable book opens with a glossary filled with Yiddish words in case the reader is not familiar with some of the terms used in the book. The young reader will learn the meaning behind such words as mazel tov, kugel, bubbe, challah, and oy! After that begins the tale of the jar of gefilte fish that will not open. The family is looking forward to the gefilte fish, but because the jar is stuck, an adventure begins to find someone in town who can open the jar. The family visits a mechanic and a dentist, among others in town, and enlists the help of their family members. They even ask a bodybuilder to open the jar. Everyone tries and tries, but the jar just won’t open!
Throughout A Gefilte Fishy Tale, authors Allison and Wayne Marks have sprinkled Yiddish words, making the book not only fun but also educational. As an adult reader, I picked up some of the language and enjoyed the journey to open the pesky jar of gefilte fish. The book is beautifully illustrated as well, with pictures that add much to the story and keep the tale going for a young reader. The language is easy and fun, with rhymes that are both clever and humorous. The book concludes with a recipe for gefilte fish muffins and even a song called "Shabbat a Lot." There is much to love about this book, and it is highly recommended for all children or adult readers who want to share the fun adventure with their children, grandchildren, or other youngsters in their lives!
As readers open A Gefilte Fishy Tale, they’ll find a beautiful glossary of Yiddish terms. These words serve as a backbone of the book as they help to give the story a cultural flair. Renée Andriani helps the story along by adding colorful illustrations that seem to welcome readers right into the family and comical situation of how to open a jar of gefilte fish. Why gefilte fish? Well, Bubbe Judy knows that her grandson Jack happens to love eating it for the Shabbos meal. As you read along, you’ll find that everyone seems to have difficulty turning that stubborn lid. Readers will most likely find themselves saying, “Oy! How hard could it be to twist open a jar?” Well, Bubbe Judy (grandmother), Zayde (grandfather), a bodybuilder, an inventor, a mechanic, a doctor, a dentist, a fisherman, a plumber, and numerous family members try their hand at the lid, but no one succeeds, and this makes everyone feel farklempt! As readers follow along in the story and witness each character try out their own hypothesis on this problem, they may find themselves giggling out loud. What was the solution? Well, you’ll have to read this fishy tale to find out!
READERS' FAVORITE, 5 STARS, Jack Magnus
A Gefilte Fishy Tale is a children's picture book written by Allison and Wayne Marks and illustrated by Renée Andriani. Bubbe Judy knows exactly what her grandson Jack's favorite food is — gefilte fish. The two of them went to the Kosher Mart and bought a large glass jar filled with the fishy treats. When she brought it home, however, she was dismayed to find that she just couldn't get the lid off, no matter how hard she tried and what method she used. Zayde used the spoon-thumping technique and tried clamping it in a vise, but nothing seemed to be working. The local bodybuilder figured he'd have no problem opening the bottle, but, no, even his super strength was no match for that stubborn lid. Bubbe and Zayde asked for help from all sorts of people: the dentist, an inventor, even an auto mechanic, and every one of them failed to open the jar. Finally it was dinnertime, and Bubbe Judy's guests had all arrived. They all assured her that they'd get that pesky lid off in no time at all, but would they be able to?
Allison and Wayne Marks' children's picture book, A Gefilte Fishy Tale, is a hilarious look at the problem just about everyone has encountered at some time in their lives — prying loose a lid that just doesn't want to open. The authors' story is comical and infinitely entertaining, and illustrator, Renée Andriani's artwork is inspired. I can still see the riotous panel where the struggling dentist roars at the bottle to open wide, and everyone in the room follows his instructions. Included in A Gefilte Fishy Tale is a Yiddish glossary and pronunciation guide, a recipe for gefilte fish mini muffins and an original song with lyrics and musical score written for the piano. This is a book that's truly designed to entertain children and adults alike, and it does so in grand, and very funny, fashion. A Gefilte Fishy Tale is most highly recommended.
A is for Aging, B is for Books . . .Blog, Lindsey McDivitt One giant jar of gefilte fish, one grandson and one set of grandparents—a surprising formula for a fun and lively delight of a picture book. A Gefilte Fishy Tale quickly draws in young and old with its bouncy rhymes by Allison and Wayne Marks, all spritzed with Yiddish. This gentle and humorous adventure roams through their town as they prepare for Shabbos, their Friday evening Sabbath meal.
Bubbe (grandmother) Judy hopes to include grandson Jack’s favorite—gefilte fish. But the lid of the huge jar is stuck and everyone from Zayde (grandfather) to their local auto mechanic gets involved as they schlepit from person to person in attempts to loosen the lid.
Silliness abounds and the Yiddish terms sprinkled throughout in italics are words many of us have heard and used, perhaps unaware of their origin.
They basted it with butter And spritzed some pickle juice. They slathered it with olive oil-- It wouldn’t wiggle loose.
They lugged it to their auto shop And schmeared it well with sludge. But even with a monkey wrench That lid refused to budge.
Delightful illustrations by Renee Andriani show a nicely diverse town where both racial and gender stereotypes are avoided. When the town doctor diagnoses “a dreadful case of Liddy-stuck-a-tosis, everyone from the dentist to the plumber is consulted for a potential fix . . . .
A Yiddish-English glossary for the whole mishpocha anchors the beginning of this book and a recipe for Gefilte Fish Mini Muffins and a light hearted Shabbat song are included in the back.
We Need Diverse Books
A Gefilte Fishy Tale is a treasure celebrating both Jewish traditions, and the enrichment of languages and cultures with the addition of words from other languages.
It’s my hope this picture book will be shared not only in Jewish families, but in families of many different religions and ethnic backgrounds. Cultures are continually enriched by other cultures. Diversity is a gift and both America and the world are in great need of gentle reminders. . . .
READERS' FAVORITE, 5 STARS, Hilary Hawkes
A Gefilte Fishy Tale by Allison and Wayne Marks, and illustrated by Renée Andriani, is an amusing and colorful story for children. It’s Friday morning, Shabbos (the Sabbath) is coming, and Bubbe (meaning Grandma) Judy plans to serve her grandson Jack’s favorite yummy dish —gefilte fish—for dinner. But the lid is stuck on the jar! Everyone in the neighborhood has a go at trying to remove the stubborn thing – methods include a monkey wrench, the dentist’s pliers, karate chops, blasting it with a hairdryer, magic, hypnosis, and just about every kind of tugging, pulling, gripping and walloping you can imagine. But nothing works . . . until, that is, young Jack has a brilliant idea.
I love the humor in A Gefilte Fishy Tale. Allison and Wayne Marks have created an amusing and entertaining story that will keep young story lovers engaged from start to end. There is a lovely traditional family and community tone to the tale, with Grandma and Jack looking forward to the family weekly gathering for the special Shabbos meal. A comical urgency is conveyed with every turn of the page, and everyone in the community is willing to offer help and ideas that might solve the problem. I had to laugh at some of the methods and was really hoping one of the last resorts (hypnosis) would do the trick. But no, and how lovely that it is young Jack and a very special idea that works in the end. There is a message here for children that sometimes it is the simplest thing will achieve the desired result. A little politeness and appreciation can go a long way. A Yiddish-English glossary opens the book, as the authors sprinkle some Yiddish words throughout the story.
Renée Andriani’s illustrations on every page really complement the story perfectly and bring the characters and plot alive. They are beautifully created, colorful, appealing, and full of humor. There is a lot going on in the illustrations, so lots to talk about when the story is shared together. I love the little dog who appears on most pages observing the antics of the humans and finally joining in on the celebrations. The book ends with a recipe for gefilte fish muffins and a music sheet with words and lyrics. A Gefilte Fishy Tale is an entertaining, educational story with a good message, and makes a very worthy addition to any child’s home or class library. Recommended.
JANINE BENTON, REVIEWER 5 STARS:Oy Gevalt! (Oh No!) It's Friday and shabbos (sabbath) is only hours away! Bubbe Judy (grandmother) wants to serve gefilte fish to the family at dinner, but she cannot open the jar! Zayde (grandfather) tries, and it still won't open. So Zayde, Bubbe Judy, grandson Jack, (a boychik (a sweet boy)), and his little dog take the jar to a mechanic, a dentist, a doctor, an inventor, and to everybody they know! But still the jar won't open and it is giving them tsuris (woe).
Authors Allison and Wayne Marks use simple rhyme sprinkled with Yiddish to tell their story, which makes it easier for children to remember the words after reading it, or hearing it read out loud. Renee Andriani's illustrations are cozy, modern and relatable. For example, if a child does not understand the description of the inventor who could not open the jar with his machine (called "Old Gus"), then he or she may grasp the story through the illustration of the disheveled, very alarmed cat and dog sitting near the soot-covered inventor.
This book is a wonderful introduction to Yiddish and the comforting way it is used and spoken in many Jewish families around the world. It is also a beautiful reminder for Jewish and non-Jewish children that Jewish culture and tradition are very much a part of American culture and will remain so. A Gefilte Fishy Tale deserves a place in every school library.
MEDEIA SHARIF, EDUCATOR 5 STARS:Jack's family is going to have gefilte fish for their shabbos meal, but the jar refuses to open! The family doctor to the car mechanic, and everyone in between, takes their shot at opening this jar. The illustrations add to the humor. I highly recommend this children's book. I read it via NetGalley, courtesy of the publisher.
REVIEWER 60249 Not just a children's book. Youngsters will enjoy this humorous story in rhyme (the rhymes are quite good and do not seem forced). But the clever tale is sure to evoke smiles and laughter from adults, especially bubbies and zaydes. Engaging illustrations of a plethora of characters attempting to open an obstinate jar of gefilte fish using creative means capture the zaniness. You'll want to give this one to all of your friends and family. Bravo, five stars!
JOHNNA W., REVIEWER 5 STARS:I loved this children's book, the rhyming, dilemma, and way it was solved. I loved getting a glimpse of words used within a different religion and teaching my son in a fun way. It has all the necesssary parts of a children's story, in my honest opinion. A quick, fun read; but also a book that teaches and helps children learn new words meaning and foods they might not learn otherwise! Highly recommend parents buying a copy and reading it and teaching their children what this book offers! Love that it only took the magic word, we always preach, to end the dilemma that many stronger, bigger, and smarter could not fix!
MEDEIA S., EDUCATOR 5 STARS: Jack's family is going to have gefilte fish for their shabbos meal, but the jar refuses to open! The family doctor to the car mechanic, and everyone in between, takes their shot at opening this jar. The illustrations add to the humor. I highly recommend this children's book. I read it via NetGalley, courtesy of the publisher.
ROGENE C, EDUCATOR 5 STARS: I loved this book and hope that many people can come to appreciate the Yiddish appearing throughout.
CARLA J., REVIEWER 4/5 STARS: An adorable book for young children everywhere, Jewish or not. Yes, it deals with a dish the grandmother is trying to prepare for the Shabbot and yes, there are yiddish words included (and a glossary at the beginning) but besides that, it does not prostheletize. This is a great book with brightly colored pages and a rhyming story about trying to get the lid off the jar of gefilte fish. The whole family and community try to solve the problem and get the lid off to no avail. Bubbe (Grandmother) Judy is preparing the Shabbos meal. Jake, her grandson loves gefilte fish, it is his favourite so Bubbe must prepare it. When she can not get the lid off the jar, she needs help. Antics ensue as Bubbe and Zayde (Grandfather) work together to try and remove the lid. When they can not get it off, they seek help from others in the community. The plumber, the dentist, the doctor and even their friend a wacky inventor can not get the lid off. When the family comes over for dinner and the lid still isn't off, so they all try. It is not until Jake says, "Please" does the lid pop off on its own. As was mentioned by a previous reviewer, it is nice to see the grandparents are not old and grey-haired. There are many young grandparents (I am one of them) and this is more in keeping with what many children will be familiar with. The illustrations are great in this story. They are bright, colourful and fun to look at. It will be fun for the children reading/listening to this story to find Jake and his dog on each page. They are always there fooling around and having fun. Another way to get children talking about what they read. I wold recommend this book to school and public libraries. It could be used to teach about rhyme, holidays, communities etc.
DB i, EDUCATOR 4/5 STARS: A great tale for celebrating a day of rest (Shabbat) A grandmother preparing a meal for the grandchild - with some yiddish words and a glossary of their meaning. This book is perfect for young readers or as a read-aloud at story time with rhyming story pattern and well illustrated. Can open up a lot a conversational topics.
IAN W., REVIEWER 5 STARS:This might sound weird (then anyone who knows me will know this is par for the course), but a couple of days ago the term 'gefilte fish' was going through my brain. I know not from whence it came. Not on that day, but a few years back, I saw a greeting card in a store that featured 'gefilte fish' as part of a nonsense good wishes recital and I blame that for originally fixating it in my brain where it's been lodged comfortably ever since. I know at some point - and assuming I live long enough - that it's going to come out in a story. All this, anyway, to indicate why I thought it was a good idea to read this young children's book beautifully illustrated by Renée Andriani, and rhymed to perfection by the Marks brothers, er, husband wife team! Although frankly, it might have been written by the Marx Brothers. Bubba Judy buys a jar of gefilte fish, and all is well until they get it home and find they cannot get it open. This also turns out to be jar for the course as they resort to an assortment of friends to help undo it, and all of them fail. What's to become of it? Well you'll have an interesting time finding out. In addition to the story, you get recipe for gefilte fish mini muffins, which frankly sounds disgusting to me, but maybe they're nice. There's also an original song by Wayne Marks, Margie Blumberg, and Gavin Whelehan, and a very welcome glossary for the Yiddish-challenged, which includes me most of the time, although fans of Mel Brooks movies might recognize some of these words. I recommend this one for a fun read for kids and an educational experience!
IRINA C., REVIEWER I was excited to read this book as I haven't seen too many secular books for my little one. This hit the mark, the poem is really easy to get into, the animations are really cute and even learned some yiddish words. Of course, the whole time I was reading this I thought....through all this trouble to open the can, they're going to end up just making the gefilte fish themselves right? no.. but surprise, there is a recipe in the back!
CATHIE S., EDUCATOR This book is hysterical! Having a Bubbe myself, and having eaten Gefilte fish this book really brought back memories. The rhyming was great and added a lot. Illustrations were very cute and matched the text perfectly. Having the yiddish dictionary in the front was great for people not familiar with the terminology and adding recipes and songs to the end was a delightful addition! Mazel tov for a great book!
TERRY B., REVIEWER The book has some wonderful illustrations, along with a glossary of Hebrew/Yiddish words for anyone who is unfamiliar with the terms in this book! Gefilte fish for the uninitiated is: "Gefilte Fish ~ a dish made from whitefish, carp, and pike, often enjoyed on Shabbat and the Jewish holidays —with a dollop of horseradish on the side (guhFILLtuh)" What a fun tale, an inventor, karate kicker, and plumber all try to pry open a jar of delicious Gefilte fish...... But who finally does - you'll have to read the book to find out!
EMILY H., LIBRARIAN 4/5 STARS: Everyone can relate to trying to open a jar and being unsuccessful. Loved it!
JACKIE F., REVIEWER 4/5 STARS: I have fond memories of reading books like this as a little girl. Brightly colored pages, the whole community gets involved in solving a problem, and I always felt so smart learning new words! In this case, I was learning (or really, reinforcing) Yiddish. Plus, this book comes complete with a song to learn at the end. What is there not to like?
Bubbe (Grandmother) Judy is preparing the Shabbos meal when it is discovered that the lid to the gefilte fish won't come off! Antics ensue as Bubbe and Zayde (Grandfather) work together to try and remove the lid. Soon, the entire community is involved! From the plumber to the dentist to their friend who is a wacky inventor. When the family comes over for dinner the lid still isn't off, the entire family takes a crack at it. Not until the youngest, Jake, says "Please?" does the lid decide to budge.
There are two things that really stick out to me about this book. The first is that Bubbe and Zayde are not grey-haired! Yes, they are certainly older, but it's refreshing to see younger grandparents. So often, the grandparents in children's books are grey and wrinkled. There's nothing wrong with that, but as a child I was always confused why the grandparents in my storybooks didn't look like my own grandparents.
The second is their grandson Jake and his dog. I loved watching for this mischievous pair on each page of the book. They obviously want to help (as this is Jake's favorite food!), but sometimes they are playing around instead. This is the sort of thing I'd ask my kids to point out to me when I'm reading to them, "Where is Jake's dog? What are they doing?" They aren't part of the dialogue, but they are important to the fun and joy in the scene.
An adorable book for young children everywhere, Jewish or not.
BIBLIO F., REVIEWER Not just a children's book. Youngsters will enjoy this humorous story in rhyme (the rhymes are quite good and do not seem forced). But the clever tale is sure to evoke smiles and laughter from adults, especially bubbies and zaydes. Engaging illustrations of a plethora of characters attempting to open an obstinate jar of gefilte fish using creative means capture the zaniness. You'll want to give this one to all of your friends and family. Five stars!