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

Book review by
Matt Berman, Common Sense Media
Gershon's Monster: A Story for the Jewish New Year Book Poster Image
Hasidic legend keeps kids on edge of their seats.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Positive Messages

Gershon behaves badly but learns the error of his ways.

Violence & Scariness

A monster attacks Gershon's children.


What parents need to know

Parents need to know that the creatures in this story will delight most kids, though the monster's apparition may be a bit much for smaller, more sensitive listeners. Detailed watercolors illustrate a traditional story.

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What's the story?

Gershon is not a nice man--he treats others badly. Every year Gershon sweeps up all his sins and throws them into the sea. But those sins are coming back to haunt him, and his children may pay their price. This old Hasidic legend, beautifully illustrated, keeps kids on the edge of their seats.


Is it any good?

This rewarding folk tale is brought to life by Muth's witty and powerful watercolor paintings. Gershon's sins are depicted as wicked little gremlins having an uproarious time. The monster, on the other hand, is no joke -- an overwhelming, if somewhat fuzzy, apparition that dwarfs the frightened children, and that may be a bit much for more sensitive small listeners.

Eric A. Kimmel tells the story straightforwardly, but, as demonstrated by Daniel Pinkwater on NPR, the text is designed for a spirited reader to have fun hamming it up. Young readers tackling it on their own may find it more of a challenge. For the youngest listeners, the message about the importance of genuine repentance may fly over their heads, but the story holds its own as a satisfying morality tale.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about what the monsters in the story signify. Do you think their appearance matches what they stand for? Do you find them funny or scary?

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