Rabbi Harvey vs. The Wisdom Kid
written by Steve Sheinkin
Rabbi Harvey finds himself in a bind in his third graphic novel adventure. Two of his previous foes—“Bad Bubbe” Bloom and “Big Milt” Wasserman—team up to make Bad Bubbe’s son, Rabbi “Wisdom Kid” Rubin, the only rabbi in town. Is Rabbi Harvey’s wisdom quick enough and sharp enough to prevail? And will he ever win the hand of the fair gold miner/school teacher Abigail?
Sheinkin’s most recent Rabbi Harvey book is as fun and enlightening as his previous works: The Adventures of Rabbi Harvey and Rabbi Harvey Rides Again. While the combination of a Wild West setting and ancient Jewish folktales sounds like a recipe for disaster, Sheinkin instead brews up a treat. As in fables of old, Sheinkin has distilled ancient wisdom down to a pure elixir which goes down smoothly, making the stories in the Rabbi Harvey collections perfect for a wide range of ages, from older elementary through adults. The Wild West setting simply gives things a uniquely American twist.
Sheinkin is careful to keep his characters true to type, giving Harvey a dry wit that plays nicely off of the gently conniving foes he faces. Abigail’s independent, down-to-earth personality is an enjoyable touch. Each person is drawn as enough of an individual to make him or her stand out and remain clear throughout the tales, but their long faces and weary eyes add humor to the tales. The setting is simple, with enough details for readers to see the Old West in their heads, but without overloading the pages. A muted brown-and-tan color palette also helps set the stage. The stories are broken into sections for readers who like to have a stopping point, but those sections flow smoothly into one another for the straight-through reader.
Readers do not have to have read the previous books to enjoy this third outing and knowledge of Jewish folklore is not necessary either. A list of suggested readings and information on story sources makes this a nice choice for use in classrooms. Though this will probably have to be somewhat hand-sold to potential readers, once they’ve read one of Rabbi Harvey’s fun adventures, they’ll be sure to want another. Rabbi Harvey is a wonderful addition to American folklore, more than able to take his place beside older icons such as Paul Bunyan and Brer Rabbit.