Judging Book Covers

July 9, 2015

By Shlomo Greenwald

I’ll admit it. I sometimes choose to read a book based on its cover. I know. I know. I’m breaking a cardinal rule of…well…of life, of one that we’ve all been taught, at least as a metaphor, since pre-school.

Whether the rest of us admit it or not, covers draw our attentions and create the initial impressions we have with books. Which is why I’ve long bemoaned the state of book covers in the Orthodox publishing world. There had always been exceptions, but in general the covers were boring and cookie-cutter.

In the last five to 10 years, though, Jewish book covers have gained some vitality and personality. On this page are a few of the new titles whose covers have won
my attention and praise.The Jewish Dog9780983868538

The Jewish Dog by Asher Kravtiz

Designer Shanie Cooper says:

The Jewish Dog is a translation of a novel published in Israel in 2007 to great success. I like the basic design of the original cover and wanted to retain its flavor (a cartoon image of a dog on a solid blue background), but I made several significant changes. I chose a different image for the dog, Caleb, that more closely matched how I imagined him – intelligent and gazing up as if trying to communicate with the reader.

“This was important because this powerful book is uniquely narrated by the dog himself as he lives through the years before, during, and after the Holocaust. I chose a grungy font and added texture to both the font and the blue background to make the cover feel more complex and layered, like the ideas grappled with in the book.

“A further issue affecting this book cover was how to best translate the Hebrew title, Hakelev Hayehudi. The publisher and distributor debated whether a strict translation, although potentially provocative, would be best, or whether to avoid possible controversy by selecting a less derogatory sounding title – for example, The Hebrew Hound, The Yiddish Hound. Also discussed was whether to add a subtitle to the book for clarification, i.e. “A Novel.” In the end, the publisher chose the most accurate translation of the title, simply, The Jewish Dog.”

This originally appeared in The Jewish Press


Portland Book Review The Jewish Dog

June 23, 2015

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 The Jewish Dog9780983868538delightful 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 »


A (Jewish) Dog’s Life

March 22, 2015

The Jewish Dog9780983868538By Kathe Pinchuk

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”

to being Caleb, as his mother’s family decides to keep him and give him a proper name. Caleb loved the Gottlieb family and they loved him. The children would feed him table scraps, and Caleb always knew when it was the Sabbath because he got more delectable leftovers from the meals.

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