Shlemiel Crooks, Anna Olswanger
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   Shlemiel Crooks - Price: $11.95   

by Anna Olswanger, ISBN: 978-1-58838-236-8
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“In the middle of the night on a Thursday, two crooks—onions should grow in their navels—drove their horse and wagon to the saloon of Reb Elias Olschwanger, at the corner of 14th and Carr streets in St. Louis. This didn’t happen yesterday. It was 1919.” So begins Anna Olswanger’s charming folktale Shlemiel Crooks, the story of Reb Elias and the thieves who try to steal his Passover wine. Based on a true story, Shlemiel is an imaginative introduction for young children to the history of Passover, as Pharaoh and a town of Jewish immigrants play tug-of-war with wine made from grapes left over from the Exodus from Egypt. A Sydney Taylor Honor Book. [ Rate Book ]  [ Report Listing ]

Biography :

Anna Olswanger wears several hats in the book world. In addition to being the author of Shlemiel Crooks, a Sydney Taylor Honor Book and Koret International Jewish Book Award Finalist, Anna is a literary agent with Liza Dawson Associates in New York. She is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Rhodes College in Memphis and holds a masters degree in creative writing from the University of Memphis. For several years she coordinated the Jewish Children's Book Writers' Conference at the 92nd Street Y in Manhattan. Anna recently launched the website Her own website is

Book Review :

School Library Journal: "This delightful story is based on a true incident reported in the St. Louis Jewish Record in 1919, in which Reb Elias Oschwanger's liquor store was almost robbed of its Passover wine (brought in from the Land of Israel no less) by a couple of inept thieves. But that's not the whole story because Reb Elias also recounts his own version of the exodus from Egypt, with the Hebrews absconding with linen and jewels and raisins—raisins? Anyway, you remember the part where Pharaoh chases after the Israelites and ends up in the Red Sea? Turns out his ghost is still wandering around St. Louis of all places, whispering in the ears of the crooks who go rob the store, only they get scared off by some noisy neighbors and a talking horse. This tale is a pleasure and a hoot; it rings so true with the voice of a Yiddish grandmother that it's practically historic fiction (minus the ghost). The boldly colored, expressive illustrations enhance the humor so you shouldn't get bored."

The New York Times Book Review: "You should be so lucky as to find a Passover story that combines a surprisingly droll exposition of the flight from Egypt (right down to the pilfered raisins), with an account of the foolish crooks in St. Louis, who, in 1919, really did try to steal some of the special spirits Reb Elias Olschwanger had ordered for sale before the holiday. Well told and illustrated."

The Bulletin for the Center for Children's Books: "An entertaining and well executed tale that is chock full of subtle humor."

Sid Fleishman, Newbery Award winner for The Whipping Boy: Shlemiel Crooks manages to be both poignant—and laugh-out-loud funny. A gem."

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