By: Heidi Smith Hyde
Illustrated by: Joanna Van Der Sterre
Publisher: Kar-Ben Publishing
Publication Date: January 2010
Reviewed by: Deb Fowler
Review Date: March 2010
Feivel was on board the deck of the ship. He held his hand over his heart and tentatively waved goodbye to his family. He was sadly leaving his wife and children behind to go to America in hopes of making a better life for them all. As the ship passed the Statue of Liberty he began to dream of them in his mind's eye. There was Shmuel, Sasha, his little prima ballerina, and his infant daughter, Lena. His eyes held a glimmer of hope as he approached the shore, but he knew it would be a long time before he would hold them in his arms once more.
In the Old Country Feivel had been a wood carver along with his elders. They were the carvers of "the ornate reading desks that held the Torah scrolls, and the fearsome lions that guarded the holy arks in synagogues" so he was sure to find work in this new land of opportunity, but it was not the kind of work he was used to. Carving furniture was hard, but he would save his money and persevere. His family would one day join him if he worked hard enough. His cousin Mikhael tried to get him to relax and take a short day trip to an amazing place in Brooklyn called Coney Island.
No, no. There was no time for the frivolous when his family was counting on him. He had to save his money. Mikhael insisted and that very weekend they boarded the number thirty-eight trolley car and were on their way to see those fortune tellers, the ferris wheels and the glowing lights ... but he had to think of his children. It was a dreamlike place with the color the lights, and the screams of excitement, but his family was counting on him. The pair heard some organ music and soon came upon a "magnificent wooden carousel." The carvings were surreal and his heart began to leap when he saw a sign ... "WANTED Experienced Wood Carver." He was now thinking of his childen as Mikhael tugged on his arm in hopes of finding something good to eat. Was that carousel horse beckoning Feivel from inside that door? Was he going to be able to bring his family from the Old Country if this Coney Island business took him on? "Tumbala, tumbala, tumbalalaika ..."
This tale of Feivel, an East European Jewish immigrant, who found his dream on a Coney Island carousel, will delight the reader. I was so enthralled with the story when I first read it, I barely even glanced at the sweeping, nostalgic artwork. The emotions of Fieval were captured perfectly with each brushstroke. This tale is not only one that captures the excitement of Coney Island and those magnificent flying horses, but also one that captures a critical period in Jewish history. In the back of the book is an historical note about the East European Jewish immigrant and the wood carvers of Coney Island.
Quill says: A captivating story about wooden horses and the men who carved them.