Cover image for Raisel's riddle
Raisel's riddle
Silverman, Erica.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1999.
Physical Description:
1 volume (unpaged) : color illustrations ; 24 cm
A Jewish version of the Cinderella story, in which a poor but educated young women captivates her "Prince Charming" a rabbi's son, at a Purim ball.
Reading Level:
AD 270 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR LG 3.3 0.5 47308.

Reading Counts RC 3-5 3.5 2 Quiz: 20512.
Added Author:
Added Uniform Title:
Cinderella. English.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PZ8.S3457 RAI 1999 Juvenile Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
PZ8.S3457 RAI 1999 Juvenile Non-Fiction Fairy Tales
PZ8.S3457 RAI 1999 Juvenile Non-Fiction Open Shelf

On Order



A Jewish Cinderella What's more precious than rubies, more lasting than gold? Raisel knows. She learned it from her grandfather, a poor scholar who taught her. When he dies, Raisel finds work in the home of a rabbi. His jealous cook makes Raisel toil from sunup to sundown. And as the Jewish holiday of Purim approaches, Raisel works even harder. The rabbi's son presides over the Purim dinner, and Raisel listens closely when he responds to riddles posed by his guests. Is it possible that this young man can answer Raisel's riddle? Erica Silverman's lively retelling of the Cinderella story features a heroine for whom knowledge is as essential to happiness as love. In striking paintings, Susan Gaber captures all her beauty, external and internal.

Author Notes

Erica Silverman is a children's author who has loved books since she was a child. She said that books inspired her daydreams and fantasies. She discovered the magic of libraries before she could read. Her grandmother took her to the 23rd Street branch of the New York Public Library in Manhattan. This is where she started appreciating the experience of picking out books to take home. Her love for reading lead her to writing. It was her grandmother who told her stories that fed her imagination. She drew on these memories when she wrote Gittel's Hands, Raisel's Riddle, When the Chickens Went on Strike and Sholom's Treasure.

For fourteen years she taught English as a Second Language to adult immigrants believing the acquisition of language is empowering. Her love of reading and writing has led her to yet another career. She earned her Masters in Library and Information Science and has become a librarian. She has always spent a great deal of time in libraries, both to research my books and to find books to read for pleasure. One of her favorites was an East European folk tale called 'The Turnip.' Many years later, the memory of this book inspired her to write Big Pumpkin which made The New York Times Best Seller List in 2013.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Ages 5^-9. A lovely re-imagining of the Cinderella story, with a fine twist. Raisel lives in a tiny village in Poland with her grandfather, a poor scholar. When Zaydeh dies, Raisel goes to town to seek work and finds it in the kitchen of a famed rabbi. But the cook mistreats her and keeps her from the Purim party. That night, when Raisel gives her supper to an old woman, the beggar grants her three wishes. Raisel, who then goes to the Purim party costumed as Queen Esther and enchants the rabbi's son with her riddle, is wise enough to keep one wish back and uses it for cleaning the kitchen when she returns at midnight. The next day the rabbi's son searches for her, and Raisel, locked in the pantry, calls out her riddle: "What's more precious than rubies, more lasting than gold? / What can never be traded, stolen, or sold? / What comes with great effort and takes time, but then--/ Once yours, will serve you again and again?" The rabbi's son knows the answer, which is "learning," and so they "lived and learned happily ever after." The illustrations in velvety, muted colors make use of strong geometric shapes and varying perspectives: we see Raisel and her Zaydeh through a window studying together; the nasty cook looming over Raisel in the rabbi's kitchen; and dramatic close-ups of Raisel and the beggar woman and a gorgeous one of Raisel dressed as Queen Esther with the rabbi's son. This universal story fits into its Jewish milieu as neatly as a key in a lock. --GraceAnne A. DeCandido

Publisher's Weekly Review

Starring a Jewish orphan in a long-ago Polish village, this colorful, expertly structured variation on Cinderella offers many things: an independent-minded heroine plus a hero attracted by wisdom and virtue; a fairy-tale patina plus old-world ambiance; and a tie-in to Purim that grounds the story without limiting its appeal. Raisel is not immediately recognizable as a Cinderella type. Raised by her grandfather, a poor but devout scholar, she has studied right alongside him. When he dies, she finds work in a faraway village as the helper to a rabbi's cook, a jealous and harsh woman who could rival any evil stepmother. Silverman (Don't Fidget a Feather) maintains impeccable pacing, characterization and once-upon-a-time diction as Raisel catches the eye of the rabbi's learned son, and, through an act of kindness, earns three wishes on Purim. Enter a costume and magical transportation, and the Cinderella parallel pops out, to surprise and delight young readers. Raisel uses her wishes wisely and wins the love of the rabbi's son; unlike Cinderella, this maiden sets a test for her beloved, and it brings the story full-circle to its flavorful beginnings. Gaber (Bit by Bit) underscores the text's emphasis on the characters' inner resources. Her paintings find the warmth in Raisel's companionship with her grandfather, despite the modest surroundings, and they pay more attention to Raisel as a scullery maid than to her appearance in the magical costume. A splendid story, intelligently served. Ages 5-8. (Mar.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

K-Gr 3-In this Jewish holiday variant of the Cinderella story, Raisel, the granddaughter of a learned scholar, uses her wits to win the rabbi's son. After Raisel's grandfather dies, the orphaned girl moves from her Polish village to a large city and goes to work in the kitchen of a rabbi. On the night of the Purim ball, she feeds an old woman who gives her three wishes for her kindness, thus allowing Raisel to attend the ball and tell the rabbi's son a riddle that wins his heart. Using elements from the classic tale and ideas from the Talmud, Silverman crafts a story that teaches the importance of learning while retaining the romance of the fairy tale. The quotes from the Talmud blend in well with the rest of the narration and the themes reappear in the art. Gaber's pictures are uneven, with Raisel looking different from page to page, but at their best, the composition is lovely and the realistic paintings with their smears of bright colors beautifully reflect the emotions of the text. The artist plays with point of view, setting her illustrations at all different angles and distances, some of which are more effective than others. However, as a whole, the book works, and while not a necessary purchase, it will be a welcome addition where more folklore with a Jewish focus is needed.-Amy Lilien, Ferguson Library, Stamford, CT (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.