The Book Rescuer (Hardcover)

How a Mensch from Massachusetts Saved Yiddish Literature for Generations to Come

By Sue Macy, Stacy Innerst (Illustrator)

Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books, 9781481472203, 48pp.

Publication Date: October 1, 2019

List Price: 17.99*
* Individual store prices may vary.

Description

“Stunning.”​ —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

Inspired...[a] journalistic, propulsive narrative.Publishers Weekly (starred review)

From New York Times Best Illustrated Book artist Stacy Innerst and author Sue Macy comes a story of one man’s heroic effort to save the world’s Yiddish books.

Over the last forty years, Aaron Lansky has jumped into dumpsters, rummaged around musty basements, and crawled through cramped attics. He did all of this in pursuit of a particular kind of treasure, and he’s found plenty. Lansky’s treasure was any book written Yiddish, the language of generations of European Jews. When he started looking for Yiddish books, experts estimated there might be about 70,000 still in existence. Since then, the MacArthur Genius Grant recipient has collected close to 1.5 million books, and he’s finding more every day.

Told in a folkloric voice reminiscent of Patricia Polacco, this story celebrates the power of an individual to preserve history and culture, while exploring timely themes of identity and immigration.


About the Author

Sue Macy is the acclaimed author of many books for young readers, including Miss Mary Reporting: The True Story of Sportswriter Mary Garber, which was on the Amelia Bloomer List and named a CBC/NCSS Notable Social Studies Trade Book, among many other accolades. Sue is also the author of Wheels of Change: How Women Rode the Bicycle to Freedom and Basketball Belles: How Two Teams and One Scrappy Player Put Women’s Hoops on the Map. A former editor at Scholastic, she lives in Englewood, New Jersey. Learn more at SueMacy.com.

Stacy Innerst is the illustrator of Ruth Bader Ginsburg: The Case of RBG vs. Inequality, which earned the prestigious designation of New York Times Best Illustrated Children’s Book. He also illustrated the award-winning The Music in George’s Head: George Gershwin Creates Rhapsody in Blue, which received four starred reviews; Thomas Jefferson Grows a Nation; and Levi Strauss Gets a Bright Ideas, among others. He studied art and history at the University of New Mexico and resides in Pittsburgh. Learn more at StacyInnerst.com.


Praise For The Book Rescuer: How a Mensch from Massachusetts Saved Yiddish Literature for Generations to Come

One young man seeks out a unique collection of Yiddish books to preserve them and their lost world.Growing up, Aaron Lansky remembered the story of his grandmother's immigration to America. She had just one worn suitcase, filled with books in Yiddish and Sabbath candlesticks—which her brother tossed into the water upon greeting her. It was of the Old World, and she was in the New World. Lansky loved reading but realized that to pursue his interest in Jewish literature he would have to study Yiddish, his grandmother's language. His search for books in Yiddish led to one rabbi about to bury a pile, which led to years of rescuing books from dumpsters and then building a depository for them and for the thousands of subsequent donations. Lansky visited many of the donors and heard their emotional stories. Now a well-established resource in Amherst, Massachusetts, his Yiddish Book Center is digitized, with free downloads, and conducts educational programs. Macy's text beautifully and dramatically tells this story while noting the powerful influence of Yiddish writing in the lives of Jews. Innerst's acrylic and gouache artwork, with the addition of digitized fabric textures, is stunning in its homage to Marc Chagall and its evocation of an Eastern European world that has physically vanished but is alive in these pages of beautifully realized imagery.For lovers of books and libraries. (afterword by Lansky, author's note, illustrator's note, Yiddish glossary, further resources, source notes, photographs) (Picture book/biography. 7-10)
— Kirkus Reviews *STARRED*

This inspired pairing of two top picture book biographers tells the story of Aaron Lansky, an “all-American boy” (a Star Trek poster decorates his bedroom) who in college became convinced that Yiddish books represented the “portable homeland” of the Jewish people. With Yiddish dying out after the Holocaust and little mainstream support (“Yiddish was a language whose time had passed”), Lansky learned the language, then began saving Yiddish books any way he could. He pulled nearly 5,000 out of a dumpster and accepted “one book at a time” from elderly owners (“We didn’t eat much,” one book donor tearfully tells him, “but we always bought a book. It was a necessity of life”). Founded in 1980, Lansky’s Yiddish Book Center in Amherst, Mass., is today home to 1.5 million rescued books and is a hub of Yiddish studies. Innerst (Ruth Bader Ginsburg), who notes in an afterword that his illustrations were inspired by Chagall, contributes dramatic, textural acrylic and gouache images, with sculptural figures, expressionistic settings, and the deep, rich tones of vintage book bindings. Evoking both a lost past and an urgent present, they’re a marvelous complement to the journalistic, propulsive narrative by Macy (Motor Girls). Ages 5–8. (Oct.)
— Publishers Weekly *STARRED*