Gershon's Monster: A Story for the Jewish New Year



Last updated Monday, December 18, 2006

Author: Eric Kimmel
Illustrator: Jon Muth
Date of Publication: 200
ISBN: 043910839X
Grade Level: 2nd    (GLCs: Click here for grade level guidelines.)
Date(s) Used: Jan. 2007

Synopsis: (From Publishers Weekly) This presentation of a Hasidic legend has everything a reader could want: a suspenseful story, an insightful lesson and brilliant pictures that accelerate the delivery of both. Central to the plot is the custom of tashlikh, the ritual casting of sins into the water on the first day of Rosh Hashanah. Gershon the baker, "not always the best person he could be," begins to rely on this practice as a way of dealing with his mistakes: instead of apologizing and making amends, he sweeps his thoughtless deeds into the cellar every Friday and, on Rosh Hashanah, he stuffs them into a sack, drags it to the sea and tosses it in. Of course, he will learn true repentance - but not before he receives a cryptic prophecy from a sage and, much later, faces down the sea monster his sins have created.

Note to readers:
•  Be sure to read the author’s note on the last page before you read to the children.

Discussion topics for before reading:
•  Do you know anyone who is Jewish? What does it mean to be Jewish? What do you know about the Jewish faith?
•  Find the Black Sea on the classroom map.
•  Look at the cover of the book. What predictions can you make about the story? What do you think the man is doing?
•  The subtitle is “A Story for the Jewish New Year.” What other New Year celebrations do you know about? What do you or others do at the New Year? What traditions does your family have?

Discussion topics for during/after reading:
•  The tzaddik is special “wonder” rabbi? Do you know what a rabbi is? [Explain that he’s like a priest or minister.]
•  We all make mistakes or do things we aren’t proud of. What do you do when you make a mistake? (Apologize? Write a note? Ask forgiveness? Go to confession?)
•  What did Gershon do with his mistakes? Did he ever truly feel bad about them? What is the difference between saying you’re sorry and really meaning it?
•  What do you think will happen to all the monsters that Gershon has thrown into the sea?
•  How does Gershon change as a result of what happens?

Craft ideas:
•  Cut out or make a picture of a monster to represent something you feel sorry for. Write a note on it showing how you feel.
•  Make a thank you card for someone who has done something nice for you.
•  On a narrow piece of paper, write your New Year’s resolution or something you’re thankful for. Attach a string to the top. Hang it in your room or in your house.

*Note: These craft ideas are just suggestions. You can use them, but you don’t have to use them. You can expand upon them, or add your own twist. Remember, though, that the focus of your time should not be on the development and execution of a craft; the focus should be on the read-aloud and the enjoyment of the book!