The street where we live

Shifra Glick has created a new series, a collection of comic strip stories aimed at eight-to-11-year-olds with some of the messages probably applying to adults as well.

Childrens cartoon 521 (photo credit: Feldham)
Childrens cartoon 521
(photo credit: Feldham)
Meet the neighbors – the Shikufitzky Street neighbors. Shifra Glick has created a new series following the success of her Shikufitzky kids characters. Although Glick is presenting most of the residents of Shikufitzky Street for the first time, they somehow feel familiar. We all know people like them, wherever we live and whatever age we are. In fact, although it is aimed at eight- to 11-year-olds, I enjoyed the book as much as my 10- year-old son did.
For those not familiar with Glick’s work, Shikufitzky Street is a collection of comic strip stories. Some are jokes that fit on one page; others vignettes that carry on a bit longer. As in her previous books, Glick has set the comic strips out on color-coded pages, making it easy to see where one joke ends and the next begins.
The characters include Gershon the Genius, who has just opened his own repair shop because he was tired of working for a demanding boss. How does he like it? “It’s not so great. I used to have to cope just with a demanding boss – now I have to cope with a demanding boss and a lazy worker.”
Identical twins Nitza and Ditza struggle with sibling rivalry and keeping their room tidy. Lemech is surely not the only child who puts his shoes on the couch when told not to leave them on the floor. Young Shlomzion shouts while her mother is resting but will only whisper to her grandmother on the phone. Bubby Zelda spends hours in the kitchen trying to figure out how to use her time-saving gadgets while Zaidy Zundel tells the waiter in a restaurant “…It’s no trouble deciding what we’d like to order. The trouble is deciding what we can afford.”
In true Feldheim style, the characters are all “kosher” – men and boys wear kippot; women’s heads are covered – and this street is definitely in a frum neighborhood, although it should appeal to a broader audience. My only reservation is my pet peeve about “Jewish” books in which the characters are overwhelmingly Ashkenazi. Apart from the question of why other members of the community are ignored, this can also be a problem for kids growing up in Israel with a Sephardi pronunciation of Hebrew (who refer to Shabbat and not Shabbes, for example). Still, Shikufitzky Street is a fun place to visit and I look forward to meeting the characters again as the series develops.
CHAIM WALDER is both a prolific author and a celebrated educator who was given the Prime Minister’s Magen Hayeled (Defender of Children) Award in 2003. Although in my family he is better known for his Our Heroes series in which spiritual giants from the past step off the pages, he has just come out with the sixth in his Kids Speak series in which young readers are not only the audience but also, to a large extent, the writers.
Thousands of children from all over the world write to Walder at POB 211 in Bnei Brak, where he heads the Child and Family Center, and tell him of their problems and events in their lives.
“Whenever I get a letter with a good story in it, one that talks about emotions that lots of kids feel, I take the letter and write it up as a story. If I think it’s interesting enough, I put it in a Kids Speak book,” Walder explains in the introduction.
Readers from the ages of eight to 12 (and probably older) will be able to identify with the problems and, hopefully, learn from their stories.
Avi, a 12-year-old Jerusalemite, puts his sharpshooting skills to good use when a fire breaks out in his home; Tali, a sixthgrader from Hadera, turns detective when she is wrongly accused of stealing her classmate’s multi-ride bus ticket; 12-year-old Binyamin from Kiryat Gat is a natural fighter for justice, who almost takes things too far but ends up on the front page of the local paper after he helps others through storms and floods; Dina, a 13-year-old from Bnei Brak, befriends a lonely 98-yearold woman in a nursing home – and literally saves her life.
The situations portrayed here are dramatic but the dilemmas are very real (who hasn’t been angry at a teacher/felt out of place or friendless/witnessed or experienced an injustice?) A short glossary is provided to explain the Hebrew and Yiddish terms (although here, too, the Hebrew is so Ashkenazi that it’s hard to know which is which).
The children might not be well known, but they are all heroes, each in their own way. Walder clearly believes that everyone has the potential for courageously dealing with a situation. He also suggests that all readers talk to parents and friends about their problems, rather than keeping everything bottled up inside and thinking there’s no solution.
Even if not all stories end up in a book, sharing problems is often the first step to solving them, he maintains. And that’s a message that probably applies equally to adults, not just the young readers of the Kids Speak series.