Review: Gitty and Kvetch

Gitty and Kvetch

by Caroline Kusin Pritchard, illustrated by Ariel Landy

Atheneum (imprint of Simon & Schuster)

Category: Picture Books
Reviewer: Ruth Horowitz

Gitty, an ebullient little girl with unruly curls and overalls, gets her name from Gittel, Yiddish for “good.” Kvetch, which means to complain, isn’t usually a name. But it perfectly suits Gitty’s bird pal, who wears an old man’s hat and has a band-aid on his beak, and finds the cloud behind Gitty’s every silver lining. The contrast between the two provides the backbone of Gitty and Kvetch, a picture book about friendship and framing experience. What makes this book Jewish is Kvetch’s use of Yiddish words, defined in an appended glossary. (Other than one “oy vey,” Gitty speaks entirely in English).
The story opens with Gitty producing a swooping, splattering painting. Declaring the picture perfect for her “perfect, purple tree house,” she races off to find Kvetch, who warns that it might not be the best day to go to the tree house. Gitty is undaunted, however, and off she merrily skips, dismissing Kvetch’s every kvetch, and interpreting every encounter in the best possible light. Her bees are his mosquitos, her flowers his weeds, her “spectacularly stinky stack” his cow poop. Gitty even welcomes the gathering clouds—until the ensuing rain storm ruins her painting. It all ends happily, however, with the friends reversing roles, and Kvetch convincing Gitty that what makes a day perfect isn’t sunshine or a painting, but their friendship.
This humorous, heart-warming story is told almost entirely in dialogue. The multicolor, cartoonish art is as exuberant as Gitty’s over-the-top personality. I would have liked it if Kvetch had delivered his feel-good message in feel-good Yiddish (“Kvell”? “Shep nachus”? “Shayna punim”?) to counter the stereotype that Yiddish – and by extension Judaism – excels at complaining. That one kvetch notwithstanding, Gitty and Kvetch is a fun vehicle for introducing another generation to such richly expressive words as “meshuge,” “shlep,” “tuchus,” “shmuts” and, of course, “oy vey.”
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Reviewer Ruth Horowitz's books for children include SAVING ELI'S LIBRARY, ARE WE STILL FRIENDS and CRAB MOON. She lives in Rhode Island.