Lemuel the Fool
“At night, while the other villagers dreamed of catching fish, Lemuel dreamed of sailing over the horizon.”
Lemuel is a fisherman and a fool. When he sets out on a journey across the sea, he makes sure to tie a red scarf on the bow and a rope to the stern; with the scarf waving before him and the rope trailing behind, he’ll always know he’s going the right direction. Disoriented after a storm, Lemuel lands near a strange new village—except that it’s strangely familiar, down to the woman who looks exactly like his own dear wife and even calls him by name. Later that night, a very confused Lemuel sets sail for home and away from the madness. With the red scarf before him and the rope trailing behind, he’s confident he’ll arrive at home again—and be safely back among the familiar.
A great fan of Jewish folklore, especially the rich tradition of “fools,” Myron Uhlberg also looked to his own family for inspiration when writing Lemuel the Fool. His maternal grandfather, John, was consumed by wanderlust and “the next great adventure.” Young readers will enjoy the silly charm of Lemuel’s journey, beautifully illustrated by Sonja Lamut.
Publication Date: 3/1/2001
Page Count: 32
Size: 9-3/4″ x 10-3/4″
Age Range: 4 – 8
F&P: GRL M, Gr 2, Genre TL
Themes: Folk Tale, Home, Traveling
“Uhlberg presents a properly poker-faced retelling of a popular European folktale…. The tale’s mild humor is picked up in Lamut’s airy paintings…. This rib-tickler should induce many a young armchair traveler to pay a visit to Chelm or Gotham.” ―Kirkus Reviews
“Uhlberg polishes a gem from the treasure trove of Jewish folklore with this snappy adaptation of a Chelm tale…. Uhlberg’s drily understated humor maximizes the comedy as well as readers’ affection for the hapless hero and his doltish scheme. Lamut makes a great leap forward with these graceful illustrations…. Fresh and diverting.” ―Publishers Weekly
“The fun is in the straight-faced comedy and lively pictures that contrast the warm, settled community with the innocent who thinks he’s sailed away.” ―Booklist
“This quietly humorous ending will draw smiles from listeners. The framed, softly painted illustrations give the book an albumlike quality that heightens the sense of old-world fantasy… Story and pictures combine to form a fine choice” ―School Library Journal
“The tale is told well, and the illustrations are drawn with energy and conviction.” ―Horn Book Guide
Notable Children’s Books of Jewish Content: the Best of the Bunch (Younger Readers) ―Association of Jewish Libraries, 2001
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Meet the Illustrator
Sonja Lamut has received numerous awards for her work in the U.S. and in Europe. She has illustrated more than thirty books, including Lemuel the Fool, How Many Candles?, Alex and the Cat, and The Private Diary of Katie Roberts. She lives in New York and teaches illustration at the Fashion Institute of Technology. You can visit her website here.