UNCLE JACOB'S GHOST STORY
Volume 13 Number 2
Even though he had been gone for many years, no one had ever had a good word for Paul's great-uncle Jacob. To his uncle Mordecai, Jacob was a family disgrace; "a lazy, impractical person." To Aunt Sophie, Jacob was a "scoffer" who believed in nothing and asked too many questions. But to Paul's grandfather and his old friend Mr. Eisbein, Jacob's life held the seeds of a magical tale, a tale that begins in the streets of a poor Polish village under the rule of the Czar and ends at a newsstand on Times Square.From the two old storytellers, Paul hears of the young rationalist Jacob and of his friends Simon and Esther, who love the theatrical world of make-believe. Grandfather talks about the tragic death of the two friends, Jacob's immigration to America, and his small New York newsstand. Paul listens with fascination as Grandfather tells of new world visitations by the ghosts of Simon and Esther, of Esther's magic spells, of the supervising angel, Mr. Spangler, and of eerie, dancing, department store dummies that entertain on streetcorners. Kushner, author of The Violin-Maker's Gift ¹ (The 1980 Canadian Library Association's Book of the Year for Children), has taken on the formidable task of using the "story within a story" technique to tell a supernatural tale that touches on the timeless themes of friendship, love and truth. Unfortunately, the technique is not totally successful, and Jacob's story falls short of the mark set by The Violin-Maker's Gift. These shortcomings are particularly evident near the end of the story, as the author feverishly tries to draw all the symbolic strings together. On the whole though, Jacob's story is an imaginative, fast-paced tale with marvelously entrancing characters and situations. Recommended for school and public libraries.
Dianne Harke, Edmonton, AB.
¹ Reviewed vol. IX/2 1981, p.93.
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