Review: Rebbe Nachman's The Lost Princess

Rebbe Nachman's The Lost Princess

retold and illustrated by Jessica Tamar Deutsch

Somewhere (imprint of Ayin Press), 2024

Category: Picture Books
Reviewer: Marcia Rosenthal

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The Lost Princess is an imaginative tale by Rebbe Nachman, retold and illustrated by Jessica Tamar Deutsch. In a moment of fury, a king exiles his only daughter. The following morning, he is consumed with regret, only to discover the princess is nowhere to be found. The viceroy steps up to help the distraught king and embarks on a long journey to find the princess. The viceroy comes upon a castle, where he discovers the princess is captive in the Kingdom of Evil. She can only be freed if he successfully fulfills a year-long test of solitude. He fails. The princess is moved to another castle, and the viceroy resumes his quest. He encounters friendly bear giants and wind-keepers and asks for their help. Ultimately, the viceroy rescues the princess, but how that occurs is not revealed in the story. The odd, abrupt ending is perplexing, but the mysteries throughout The Lost Princess were intentionally written for us to interpret.

Great-grandson of the Bal Shem Tov, Rebbe Nachman was a Chasidic leader in the eighteenth century who continues to be highly regarded for his stories, teachings, spirituality, and views on Jewish life. Jessica Tamar Deutsch has created beautiful, striking illustrations that catapult Rebbe Nachman’s story into a fascinating visual fairytale. Children will love it, and adults will be drawn to analyzing the concealed messages lurking in the text and illustrations.

Ms. Deutsch’s illustrations take on a more impactful role than those generally seen in children’s books. The text and artwork have an equally important role in the retelling of the tale. Four simple black-and-white symbols are introduced on the first page to identify the kings and princess. These symbols invite the reader to find where they appear (or not) in the drawings that follow. 

The symbolism throughout the book is mystical, and the reader will undoubtedly wonder about the possible meanings behind the details. To that end, Ms. Deutsch includes addenda about The Lost Princess and Rebbe Nachman. The former provides insight into the story, and the latter offers a glimpse into Rebbe Nachman’s legacy. Both further the reader’s understanding and appreciation of the distinctiveness of this book.

Interpretations will spark from a minor detail, a turn of events, an omission, fantasy characters, or design elements. Reading this book is an experience – engaging, enlightening, and fun.
The layers of hidden meaning imbued by Rebbe Nachman are ready to be unraveled, and so the book beckons to be read again and again - even a page at a time. New ideas will emerge; conclusions will be reconsidered. And the artwork remains captivating.

I’m leaving my copy on my nightstand.

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Reviewer Marcia M. Rosenthal recently left her long-standing position as a teacher at an Orthodox Jewish Day School outside of Philadelphia to devote more time to fulfilling her dream of writing and illustrating Jewish picture books. She has taught first-grade general studies, art, middle school language arts, and Jewish studies. She is a past recipient of the Grinspoon-Steinhardt Award for Excellence in Jewish Education.