Monday, May 19, 2008

Graphic Novel Monday: Rabbi Harvey Rides Again, by Steve Sheinkin

Rabbi Harvey Rides Again: A Graphic Novel of Jewish Folktales Let Loose in the Wild West, by Steve Sheinkin. Published: 2008 by Jewish Lights Publishing. Graphica. Fiction.

As some of you may know, I adored- simply adored- Steve Sheinkin's The Adventures of Rabbi Harvey, the book of which this book is the sequel. It's also been a hit at the temple where I work, and at our recent book fair I made sure we stocked- and sold- several copies. Well, if you enjoyed the first book, and even if you haven't read it yet, the sequel is sure to please.

The premise of Rabbi Harvey is simple- it's a collection of comics retelling Jewish folktales in an Old West setting, using stories from around the world as the basis for sweet morality tales starring the unibrowed and perpetually short-pantsed sage. Sheinkin's artwork is unusual and evocative in its sepia tones and woodcut-like style, and everyone has multiple bags under his or her eyes and iconic, simple features that nonetheless communicate character and emotion effectively.

I love its cleverness and silliness too. My favorite moment occurs in the story "Deputy Harvey, San Francisco Police." According to the "Story Sources" appendix, this story is based on a tale from Afghanistan but this version begins with Harvey talking to a housebound woman about his trip from New York to San Francisco- by boat. When I read this part I thought, okay- I hope they had the Panama Canal when Harvey sailed to California from New York, because otherwise it would have taken him how long? But it's just this kind of absurdity that makes Rabbi Harvey so great.

In addition to the "Story Sources" section, the book also contains a good list of recommended reading and a nice introduction. Like the first book, Rabbi Harvey Rides Again is great for the whole family- in other words, kid-friendly but fun for adults, too. This volume also sees the return of several characters from the first book- baddies "Big Milt" Wasserman and his son Wolfie are back, as is Bad Bubbe, up to no good once again. Additionally, readers meet gold miner turned teacher Abigail, who, Sheinkin seems to be hinting, might turn into a girlfriend for the lonely rabbi. Maybe volume three will see the rabbi and his ladyfriend under a chuppah? Only time (and Sheinkin) will tell. I can't wait.

Rating: BUY

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for review from the author.

2 comments:

Andi said...

Wow, a professor friend of mine and former mentor specializes in Jewish literature and graphic narrative!!! I should really send this title his way. Thanks for another great recommendation.

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