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Sanfield, Steve. 1995. Strudel, Strudel, Strudel. Illustrated by Emily Lisker. New York: Orchard Books.


Rating: ♥♥♥♥1/2 (out of ♥♥♥♥♥). (Picture from B & N).


Summary:  In the imaginary land of Chelm, a town of fools, a teacher and his wife crave apple strudel, play tricks on each other, and end up rolling down to the main square in a trunk. As a result, a sign is posted on the town square that reads: “A teacher may not live on top of a hill. A teacher may not own a trunk with wheels. A teacher may not eat apple strudel” (unpaged).


Type: This might be considered a pourquoi tale. Although Huck does not use the term, other authors have labeled this tale type a “noodlehead” story (source: Dr. Jacko, TWU).


Characters: The characters are one-dimensional. Zaynul, the school teacher, is poor, kind, gentle, reliant on his wife, and greedy for apple strudel. He wants apple strudel but is not willing to sacrifice to save for it. His wife, Zeitel, also is poor, a good wife, and somewhat greedy. She, too, wants apple strudel but does not want to work for it. Neither Zaynul nor Zeitel keeps his/her promise. Both characters are silly and foolish.


Setting: In the first few pages, Sanfield tells readers about the fictional town of Chelm and the foolish people who live there. However, those  new to Jewish folklore might not know that the setting for Chelm is probably Eastern Europe. The time frame is long ago “…when Chelm was a very young and a very poor village” (unpaged).


Plot: The plot is a somewhat familiar one, but it has many humorous twists that make it unique. A husband and wife crave something and make a promise that each one will save for it. Both find reasons to go back on the promise, and both assume that the other person will comply. When they learn the truth, they fight, and they end up falling into a trunk with wheels that takes off and keeps rolling. Eventually, after the trunk causes much mayhem, it stops and the couple is unharmed. The village “wise” men post a sign to prevent this from happening again, and they give the couple a weekly honey cake to satisfy their “sweet tooths” (unpaged). 


Themes: One theme is that we are all foolish sometimes, and we need to laugh at ourselves. Another theme is that greed and dishonesty can lead to negative consequences.


Rating Considerations: While the story seems too long, it is written in descriptive, humorous language that works well for reading or telling. Some of Lisker’s unique illustrations work better than others.


Illustrations:  In her first picture book, Lisker uses bright colors and a style that reminds one of Chagall, Expressionism, and folk art.  Publisher’s Weekly states, “Contributing to both the old-world charm and the humor of Sanfield’s story are debut illustrator’s whimsical, primitive oil paintings. Flattened perspectives and skewed lines hint at Chagall, but the comic sensibility is all her own” (Publishers Weekly, 1994). The opening village scenes are charming, with fiddlers, dancers, farm animals, and a couple seated at a table high in the air. Lisker’s paintings feature bold primary colors and greens. The scenes of the couple fighting and falling in the trunk seem overcrowded, and Zaynul seems unnecessarily elongated. However, most of the illustrations are joyful and fun.