Hershel has been blind since he was a small child. However, his lack of eyesight does not stop him from attending school, playing by the riverbank (where he delights in creating tunnels and caves in the mud), catching frogs, and helping his widowed mother. As Purim approaches, Hershel wishes he could do more than his usual mundane chores. Will this be all that is in store for him when he is a man? The boy’s hard-working mother, while loving, does not see how he is capable of any more. The author paints a vivid picture of Hershel’s frustration as he goes about his daily tasks and contemplates the future.
On Purim night, Hershel is visited in a dream by an angel who tells him that he has a special talent. Inspired and excited, he spends the rest of the night making creations that amaze his mother in the morning. For he has used the precious dough his mother was saving to bake hamentaschen (Purim three-cornered pastries) to sell, and shaped cookies in marvelous shapes. As his mother bakes the cookies and the two sell every last one at the market, Hershel realizes he has shaped a hopeful future for himself as well.
Barbara Diamond Goldin’s revamping and shortening of her original story has resulted in a more attractive read-aloud. The original 1991 publication was reissued in 2010, and both versions are high-quality read-aloud and read-alone stories. While the original illustrations by Erika Weihs magnificently capture the flavor of the European town and the emotions of Hershel and his mother, the warm tones of the new edition’s expressive artwork by Jaime Zollars perfectly complement the feel of the story. This uplifting tale is valuable any season of the year, and serves as an eye-opener as to the capabilities of people living with disabilities. For twenty years, it has gone a long way in helping kids realize that “differently abled” youngsters have the same feelings, hopes, and dreams as anyone else. Ages 5-9
Recommended by Barbara Karp, Librarian, New York, USA