Review: Seven Good Years

Seven Good Years: A Yiddish Folktale

by Shoham Smith, illustrated by Eitan Eloa, translated by Ilana Kurshan

Kalaniot Books (imprint of Endless Mountains Publishing), 2023

Category: Picture Books
Reviewer: Suzanne Grossman

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The proverb from Pirkei Avot, “Who is wealthy? One who is content with what he has,” is brought to life in this cozy portrayal of Jewish life in Eastern Europe. This is a child-friendly adaptation of a story by Isaac Peretz, first published in the early 1900’s. Poor Tuvia meets a stranger who offers him enough gold to last seven years. After he and his wife agree to accept the gift they enjoy seven bountiful years. But when the stranger returns, Tuvia and his family are still wearing their raggedy clothing and living in their ramshackle hut. The stranger asks why Tuvia hasn’t spent all the gold. Tuvia replies that they spent what they needed to educate their children but had no need for anything else. They were satisfied with meeting their simplest needs, and ask the stranger to give the remaining gold to a needy family. But the next morning they find a new pile of gold in their yard, and so another seven years of bounty begin.

This book is an excellent story for children to act out or retell sequentially. While the Jewish content is minimal, consisting of mentioning preparation for Shabbat and the use of the traditional "shalom alecheim" greeting, the flavor of Jewish village life is carried throughout by the bright and cheery cartoon style artwork.

Backmatter about Peretz and his rejuvenation of Yiddish literature and further information about the book’s theme are included.
Illustration Editor Dena Bach adds: Since the illustrations are set in the shtetl, all the brightly colored
characters are depicted as white Ashkenazim, with the exception of the stranger whose skin is a hot pink.

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Reviewer Suzanne Grossman is happily retired after 30 years as a children’s library media specialist. She had the opportunity to share books, tell stories, and encourage the joy of reading with thousands of children. The moment when a child enters a story, experiences life as a character does and walks through the setting the author has created is magical. She is honored to have the opportunity to be part of the Sydney Taylor Shmooze, working to bring the best of the newest Jewish children’s literature into the lives of young readers. Having the gift of time, she now enjoys writing picture books and sharing them with children. Happy reading everyone!