The Peddler and the Shopkeeper


Here is the opening illustration from a picture book I illustrated two years ago: The Dreidel That Wouldn’t Spin: A Toyshop Tale of Hanukkah by Martha Simpson, published by Wisdom Tales Press.  Since Hanukkah is just a few weeks away, I will be showing illustrations from this book for the next few weeks.

Set in Prague about a hundred years ago, the story begins when a mysterious peddler brings a very special dreidel, or spinning top, into a toyshop.  It is beautifully hand-crafted, a pleasure to behold.  The shopkeeper is intrigued, and with money on his mind, decides he can turn a pretty profit from this one-of-a-kind object.  But the peddler warns the shopkeeper as he leaves that only the true spirit of Hanukkah will bring out the value of the magic dreidel.

pg13Upon whom would I base these characters?  I often draw people from my imagination – but for the shopkeeper, I wanted a face that was kindly yet flawed, determined yet changeable.  I needed photos of someone from many angles, so I could make the face consistent throughout the book.  I settled on Shimon Peres, former prime minister and president of Israel, who recently passed away.  His avuncular face was just right.

For the mysterious peddler, the prophet Elijah immediately came to mind.  Although he is most known for his role in Biblical literature, it is the Elijah of Jewish folklore that fascinates me most.  Tales of Elijah abound in Eastern European Jewish folklore, in which “the Elijah of legend runs the whole gamut of functions. He is all things to all men . . . In a sense he parallels the Christian Jesus, for he . . . is the embodiment of God’s way on earth . . . a patron of all the needy . . . ” (from Elijah: A Study in Jewish Folklore, by Rabbi Samuel Segal)pg32

The “needy” in this case is an innocent young boy . . . who I will introduce next week.  Until then, the magic dreidel will wait patiently for its magic to be released.  This charming story brings an age-old lesson for children to life, with a special twist for Hebrew learners.

Dreidel jacket smallOrder a signed copy of The Dreidel that Wouldn’t Spin from my webstore.  Special sale until December 10th: Order $50 worth of merchandise and get a FREE poster OR a signed copy of my new paperback picture book, The Life of an Olive (a $10 value).  Please contact me for details.



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