Asher Kravitz writes from a unique perspective of a Jewish dog in 1935 Germany. From the first chapter, the reader will know this will be a delightful little book, even given the topic of Nazis and the Holocaust. Caleb, the Jewish dog, has an immediate love for his Jewish family. Caleb is smart and understands love and loyalty. When his family’s fortunes turn, due to an increasing number of rules against Jews, Caleb is given away. His next family is less than loving and Caleb realizes his own fortune has changed, too. He runs away and ends of with a Nazi family and then as a stray. Finally Caleb becomes a dog trained to smell out Jews and is relocated to Treblinka. Caleb wrestles with his Jewish past, as well as, his own need to survive while being fed by the Nazis. Read the rest of this entry »
The Jewish Dog tells the story of the Holocaust from a point of view that has presumably never before been explored. In this curiously original tale, Caleb, an intelligent and pensive pup, is born in the home of the Gottlieb family, a traditional Jewish family living in Germany in the 1930’s. From the very beginning Caleb is sensitively aware of his surroundings and tries to figure out the world around him. He is particularly interested in humans, their language and the role they play in his life. He loves the Gottliebs and is relieved when he is the only one of his mother’s litter who is not separated from her. Unfortunately, he ultimately does get separated from her and from the Gottliebs as well, as the events taking place in Germany begin to affect not only the lives of Jews but even the lives of dogs.
When a law is decreed that Jews can no longer own dogs, Caleb is taken in by a German family who mistreats him terribly. When this family passes him on to an SS officer whose young son is thrilled with him, at first he thinks he is lucky but later he runs away to look for the Gottliebs. Eventually he is captured by Nazis who send him to be trained as a guard dog. Read the rest of this entry »
Caleb immediately notices that he has some inherent traits that set him apart. Not only is he unusually sensitive to humans’ emotions, he is determined to fully comprehend human speech. These talents, along with his highly developed canine skills, lead to heroism and heartbreak as he negotiates his way through World War II in Europe. All the love he knows comes from the Gottlieb family, as does his understanding of his distinctly Jewish attributes, the most important being his compulsion for survival. A Nazi decree forces the family to part with Caleb. He undergoes several name changes and increasing danger as he becomes ever more deeply involved in the war. At various times he is a stray, part of a wild pack, an SS Nazi guard and attack dog at Treblinka, and a member of an underground cell. Throughout his tribulations he yearns for reunion with the Gottlieb family. Kravitz employs harrowing, detailed imagery and fluidity of language, assuming that readers have more than a cursory knowledge of the era’s events and that they willingly accept and believe a canine narrator who hears heavenly messages from a divine being. The result is powerful and heart-wrenching, and Caleb is unforgettable.
A remarkable achievement.
This review originally appears in Kirkus Reviews
As far as books go – especially books about the Holocaust – The Jewish Dog by Asher Kravitz (Penlight Publications, 2015), published in Hebrew in 2007, is certainly unique. The novel was awarded a citation by the Israeli Publisher’s Association and it is easy to understand why.
Kravitz is a Jerusalem-born physics and mathematics professor and photographer of wildlife. He has written three earlier books: two whodunits and a book about an Israeli soldier in an anti-terrorist unit. The narrator of this novel is a 12-year-old Jewish dog raised by a single mother (a dog, that is) in 1930s Germany.
When he is born, his mother lives with the Gottlieb family. Despite the family conflict about keeping any of the puppies, when the dog finds the afikoman at the seder, Herschel, the family’s son, declares that the prize is allowing the dog to stay. They name him Caleb.
Caleb is an exceptional animal. He learns to decipher human speech and can read the moods of the adults.
As the story continues, Caleb witnesses the rise of Nazism and the laws being forced upon the family – the housekeeper prevented from working for the Jewish family; the children prohibited from attending school; and Jews forbidden to own a dog.
Caleb is given to a Christian family, where the wife mistreats him, and the story follows his adventures joining a pack, his training as a facility guard dog at Treblinka, and more. All the while, we read Caleb’s philosophical commentaries and are given a great deal of food for thought on human and animal behavior.
Kravitz has produced a well-written novel that is poignant and compelling. Some might say The Jewish Dog is for young adults, but anyone wanting to read a distinctive presentation of the pre-Holocaust and Holocaust period will find this book absorbing.
After reading and reviewing this most unusual book, I was prompted to ask the author some questions about this work. When I asked him what prompted him to this type of novel, Kravitz recalled that, as a high school student, he participated in an international quiz about the Second World War, which focused on the Holocaust. One of the anti-Jewish laws enacted by the Nazis was that “raising a dog is prohibited for Jewish families.” He also remembered the images of the signs posted on restaurant and coffee shop doors, “No entrance for dogs or Jews.”
“This is almost a built-in symbol of the Holocaust that connects dogs and Jews,” he said.
Kravitz also related a conversation that he had with an elderly survivor of Auschwitz, who had a deep understanding of dogs and had been a dog feeder in the camp.
The novel began its life as a short story, which Kravitz then expanded. It took more than four years to complete. He said that he studied “the behavior of my own two dogs in order to learn their mannerisms and reactions so that The Jewish Dog would narrate as realistically as possible as a dog.”
Kravitz did not expect the novel to become so popular. “I attribute [its success] to the responsibility I felt for the seriousness of the subject matter and also to the aid I received from the editor who worked with me throughout the writing process,” he said.
Another writer and director adapted the book into a one-man play, which ran in Tel Aviv for almost three years, and The Jewish Dog is now required reading for high school matriculation exams in literature. It has been translated into French, Turkish and English.
This review originally appeared on Jewish Independent
Last month was all about cats, but this month it’s about a dog. I stopped by the Urim Publications booth at the Jerusalem International Book Fair and picked up a copy of The Jewish Dog by Asher Kravitz (Penlight Publications, 2015). The book was originally published in Hebrew as HaKelev HaYehudi by Yedioth Ahronoth in 2007.
This dog narrates his own story, starting with his birth (in 1935) and through a succession of owners. He goes from “the white one with the black circle around his eye and brown patch on his chest”
But he lives in challenging times. The situation in Germany deteriorates quickly, and his carefree days as a well-fed and loved puppy are overshadowed by harsh reality. First, the Nuremberg Laws are enacted, which means Jews cannot own dogs nor use the public parks. Caleb is given to a former colleague of Kalman Gottlieb and from there is handed off to a variety of owners. Caleb can understand human language and human emotion, so he can sense which people are fearful, or keeping secrets, or are confident and secure.
You will have to read this one for yourself, but you’ll be happy you did. While it is Caleb’s story, different aspects of life in Nazi Germany are integrated into the plot, so you get both a dog story and a sense of history and its effect on individuals.
This was one of those books that I enjoyed reading for its cleverness and twists and turns, but read with some anxiousness, wondering what would happen next. Because of the Holocaust content and some adult themes, it is very highly recommended for young adults and adults. It is also my pick for the Mildred L. Batchelder Award – the American Library Association Youth Media Award :”given to the most outstanding children’s book originally published in a language other than English in a country other than the United States, and subsequently translated into English for publication in the United States.”
This review appears on Life Is Like a Library
Kaytek the Wizard Receives Honorable Mention in the 2013 Science Fiction and Fantasy in Translation Award!August 28, 2013
Kaytek the Wizard (written by Janusz Korczak, translated by Antonia Lloyd-Jones, illustrated by Avi Katz) received a Long Form Honorable Mention in the 2013 Science Fiction and Fantasy in Translation Award!
Reviews from the award website:
Alexis Brooks de Vita found Kaytek the Wizard “sublimely poignant, as painful as it is raw, so obviously written by a man who loves childhood and children and uses fantasy to prepare them—and us—for fatality as well as mortality. Huckleberry Finn more than Tom Sawyer, reaching across a century-and-a-half to conjure Harry Potter, Kaytek’s loner protagonist finally becomes not only Frankenstein but his self-created monster, a childish Melmoth the Wanderer, made wise enough to have become capable of conveying the author’s historically heartbreaking final lines.”
Kathryn Morrow added, “This is a fresh, sophisticated, and psychologically authentic exemplar of the Bildungsroman type of fantasy. The author’s unique sensibility is well served by Lloyd-Jones’s lively translation.”
At the recent Jerusalem Book Fair, with many publishers from all over the world showcasing their new titles, it was Janusz Korczak who caught my attention.
Born in 1878, Korczak was a distinguished Polish-Jewish writer, educator and pediatrician. In 1923, he established an orphanage in Warsaw, which became well-known for his progressive ideas about child development and moral education. When the Nazis occupied Warsaw, his orphanage was moved to the ghetto, and when the Nazis later ordered that the orphanage be evacuated, Korczak chose deportation along with his children rather than saving himself. I’ve seen remarkable documentary footage of Korczak, with great dignity and kindness, marching the 200 children to the train that would take all of them to their deaths in Treblinka. Korczak was killed in August 1942.
Like Anne Frank, he left behind a diary, along with outstanding books for and about children, plays, essays and works on innovative education. His novel “King Matt the First” is a classic, telling of a boy king who tried to bring about reform.
Two of Korczak’s books are newly available, in illustrated editions, one in English and one in Hebrew.
Originally published in 1933, “Kaytek the Wizard” (Penlight Publications) is available in English for the first time. Designed to entertain and educate, this is the story of a mischievous schoolboy who discovers that he has great magical skills, but ultimately learns that with these powers come responsibility. Antonia Lloyd-James, the translator, points out in an afterword that Korczak wrote this in consultation with the orphanage children. The book is great reading for children and their parents, with illustrations by Avi Katz.
Korczak believed that Read the rest of this entry »
We cannot run from society forever. Jonah the Woodchopper follows a man, who when spurned by his life wholly, decides to leave society for the peace of living alone. When he seeks to rejoin society, he comes with wisdom of his deep thoughts, and Joshua Robin uses a short story narrative format to tell of Jonah’s encounters with many and what he learns and what he teaches. Jonah the Woodchopper is a riveting and insightful read, not to be overlooked.
This review first appeared in the Midwest Book Review
Harry Potter, step aside. The young hero of Kaytek the Wizard by Janusz Korczak (illustrated by Avi Katz; translated by Antonia Lloyd-Jones; Penlight Publications, 272 pp. $17.95) has sufficient power to transform his gluttonous classmate’s breakfast into a frog and then to soar skyward and land on the roof of a Warsaw tram. As his proficiency at magic increases, he explores a complex cosmos, interacting with Africans and Americans and zooming across oceans and continents.
The author is the legendary Holocaust hero who voluntarily accompanied the Jewish children of his orphanage to Treblinka. This first English publication of his enduring classic grants Korczak a posthumous victory of a kind. Readers will learn that boy wizards, like all children, must tread carefully as they navigate their way through a complex world.
From Hadassah Magazine
“Although Harry Potter faces adversity from cruel adults too, his world does not share the painful reality of Kaytek’s existence. Korczak wanted to help difficult children find ways to express themselves, and to overcome their troubles, so his aims were not purely to entertain”, Antonia Lloyd-Jones, the translator of Janusz Korczak’s Kaytek the Wizard talks about the differences between Kaytek and Harry Potter, and divulges her recommended Korczak reading for the world’s bankers
Culture.pl: Could you say something about your first encounter with the works of Janusz Korczak? Was it when you were still a child or later in life?
Antonia Lloyd-Jones: I was totally unfamiliar with the works of Janusz Korczak until I had learned Polish, as an adult. The first book of his that I read was King Matt the First in Richard Lourie’s translation. Unfortunately Korczak is not well known in the English-speaking world, either as a children’s author or as a pioneer of educational methods. My first real knowledge about him came with Andrzej Wajda’s 1990 film.
Culture.pl: I think reading Korczak in Polish is already quite a challenge. I mean especially his use of spoken language, ellipsis, language of children, jargon, etc. Maybe it’s just the Korczak idiom. Anyway, sometimes I’m just not quite sure if I get the sense right. It seems to require the right interpretation on the part of the reader. Do you also find him difficult as a writer?
A. L.-J.: Absolutely. His language is often quite ambiguous, and definitely presents the translator with a challenge, especially his dialogue. This is partly the result of his aim to reflect children’s speech genuinely, and to reproduce the words spoken to him by the children in his care. As I wrote in my Afterword, while he was writing Kaytek the Wizard he consulted with the children and changed the text according to their suggestions and wishes. As the publisher was keen for the translated book to be accessible to modern American children, I quite often had to make decisions about the meaning and expression that would meet their needs.
Culture.pl: What were the biggest problems with translating Kajtuś Czarodziej?
A. L.-J.: The biggest problem was with the name “Kajtuś”. English does not have an equivalent for the name Kajetan, and the diminutive “Kajtuś” would have been unpronounceable and unrecognizable to American (or other English-speaking) children. The hero is not actually called Kajtuś, but Antek, and only gains his nickname when a soldier passes by, sees him smoking, and says “Look at little Kajtuś, puffing away like an old man.” As Korczak’s original readers would have known, “Kajtuś” was a generic term used to address any little boy. So there were several considerations to take on board. The publisher and I discussed lots of possibilities. For some time I used the working name “Willy” (“Willy the Wizard”), purely for practicality, never as a Read the rest of this entry »