The Shopkeeper’s Dilemma


The Shopkeeper's Dilemma

My newest picture book, The Dreidel That Wouldn’t Spin (written by Martha Seif Simpson, Wisdom Tales 2014), takes place in Prague a century ago – a magical city full of mystery – in a classic toyshop.  Toys are so much fun to paint!  This is when my work feels most like child’s play.

pg7 upper rightThese are no ordinary toys.  These toys are like a silent jury, frowning upon bad behavior, and smiling on the uncommon humility displayed by the protagonist – a nameless little poor boy who expects nothing and ends up with the best toy in the shop: a magic dreidel that only spins for well-behaved, unselfish children.

But it’s not just the children who are being tested.  The shopkeeper, too, undergoes a change.   He starts out as a typical retail shop owner, bent upon maximum sales, with little regard for the spoiled, wealthy children who more or less command their parents to buy whatever they want.   By the end of the story, he has learned an important lesson about the true spirit of Chanukah:  graciousness, gratitude, and generosity.

It all begins in the scene you see here.  The shopkeeper, despite himself, cannot help but feel a twinge of compassion for the father and son standing outside his window.  He knows they won’t be able to buy anything . . . should he let them in at all?  To his amazement, the boy is content just to look, and doesn’t make demands.   I thoroughly enjoyed painting the shopkeeper’s befuddled expression in this picture.

Dreidel jacket smallI won’t give away the rest of this award-winning story – which, by the way, makes a perfect Chanukah gift!  You don’t have to be Jewish to enjoy it.  Children who are learning the alphabet (or the Hebrew alef-bet), from ages 4-8, will enjoy this book, as the letters on the dreidel become part of the magic.

For those of you who are local, I’ll be reading, signing, and selling The Dreidel That Wouldn’t Spin this coming Thursday at the Phoenicia Library at 4:30pm.  The book is also available signed from The Tender Land in Phoenicia, and in my webstore.

“The Dreidel That Wouldn’t Spin is an entertaining story with good pacing and supporting graphics that enrich and deepen the story of kindness, innocence, and a good heart.  It exceeds the sum of its parts and leaves a heart-warming impact that stays with the reader after the last page is closed.” — 5-star review

“A lovely choice for those wishing to circumvent the more commercial aspects of the holiday.” — School Library Journal

You can read more about how the book was made here:

Chanukah begins with the lighting of the first candle next Sunday evening, December 6th.  Chag Sameach (happy holidays) to all!

D Yael Bernhard
Author / Illustrator of
THE JEWISH EYE – 2016 /5776 calendar of art  – new!!
JUST LIKE ME, CLIMBING A TREE: Exploring Trees Around the World – new!! 
NEVER SAY A MEAN WORD AGAIN – A Publisher’s Weekly Starred Review;
winner of the Sydney Taylor Award and National Jewish Book Council Award
THE DREIDEL THAT WOULDN’T SPIN – A Toyshop Tale of Hanukkah
WHILE YOU ARE SLEEPING – A Children’s Book Council Notable Book
GREEN BIBLE STORIES FOR CHILDREN – Nat’l Green Book Festival Notable Book
A RIDE ON MOTHER’S BACK – An American Bookseller Assoc. Pick of the List
– and more!
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