Wisniewski, D. (1996). Golem. New York: Clarion Books.
Entertainment Rating: !!!
In Prague, tensions are running high among the various religious factions. Rabbi Judah Loew ben Bezalel knows that bloodshed will soon follow. In a dream, he is directed to call upon the Golem, a giant made of clay who might be able to save his people.
What makes Golem amazing are the cut paper illustrations. While the illustrations are predominantly dark (and potentially a bit spooky for some kids), the use of lighter colors which are used sparingly provide a nice shock for the mind. (Although they could also be accused of being creepy too:
What's also fun (and potentially sad, it it works...to speak in vaguely spoilerish terms) is that the reader is meant to feel for the Golem character, who is excited to experience the small things in life. Again, hoping I'm not being too spoilery, but this book could be used to help ease students into the idea of a not completely happy ending.
Since the book addresses the fact that there are religious disputes and tensions in the world (*gasp*) this book can be used to voice opinions about religious conflicts. The teacher can provoke conversations about how some cities are the settings of great conflict and attacks.
If a teacher wanted to avoid the potential difficulties of a discussion about religion, he or she could prevent the story of the golem as folklore and discuss it that way.
Since the religious tensions in the story mounted because false rumors were being spread about the jews, a teacher could focus a practical discussion on combating rumors in the classroom and seeking to understand one another.
Also, because the Golem is a sympathetic character, a teacher could draw his or her students' attention to other sympathetic beasts in children's literature (another good starting point is beauty and the beast).
Golem could also be used to demonstrate the power of language.
Quotes of Note:
"Within the beautiful city of Prague, fierce hatreds have raged for a thousand years."
"Golem was a giant of living clay, animated by Cabala, mystical teachings of untold power."
"The words soared aloft and unleashed the power of Life itself. As lightning strikes iron and flashes to earth, so the infinite energy of creation blazed through the rabbi into the coarse clay."
"The sky is rising," said Golem. "The sky changes from black to blue. It is very beautiful."