Lisa Shulman | Books | The Matzo Ball Boy

Old MacDonald had a Woodshop
The Moon Might Be Milk
Over in the Meadow at the Big Ballet

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The Matzo Ball Boy

In this fractured retelling of The Gingerbread Boy, a lonely bubbe (grandmother) makes a boy out of matzo meal. When she checks the bubbling soup pot, the matzo ball boy jumps out and runs off to see the world. Escaping the bubbe and several villagers, the matzo ball boy runs straight into the open arms (and empty bowls) of a poor man and his wife. To quote the book’s last line: You were maybe expecting a different ending?

The story behind the story
I think it’s fun to retell fairy tales and folktales. I like changing one thing in the story, and then seeing what else needs to change or stay the same.

One day my daughters were reading The Cajun
Gingerbread Boy
by Berthe Amos. In this book,
the author changed the setting of the gingerbread boy story. I was cooking dinner at the time, and I started wondering what would happen if the gingerbread boy was made out of something else. We eat a lot of matzo ball soup at my house, and it didn’t take long for me to come up with the idea for a runaway matzo ball.

At first I had the fox eat the matzo ball boy, just like in the original story. But my editor wanted me to add more of a twist at the end, to make The Matzo Ball Boy different from The Gingerbread Boy. So, after a lot of thinking and rewriting, I came up with what I hope is a tasty ending for the reader.


From Booklist:
“…a delightful fractured version of The Gingerbread Boy…This might start a family post-seder storytelling tradition.”

From The Horn Book Magazine:
“Shulman and Litzinger dish up a tasty Jewish version of the traditional “Gingerbread Man”…The ending is funny and fresh, serving both poetic and social justice in a bowl of matzo ball soup.”

From Publishers Weekly:
“Shulman combines a favorite story with dashes of silliness and broad strokes of Jewish-centric humor to make this an offbeat complement to the holiday library.”

From The New York Times Book Review:
“An amusing and cleverly illustrated Passover variation on the Gingerbread Boy.”

From J.:
“Shulman’s new book, with funny, folksy illustrations by Rosanne Litzinger, radiates the wry Jewish humor of a Catskills comedy show for kids and the grown-ups who love them…Above all, “The Matzo Ball Boy” is a joy to read aloud—or to listen to.”

From J
“Best of all, this kids’ book will actually put a grin on the face of many a beleaguered parent.”

Awards and Honors

• AJL Notable Children’s Book of Jewish Content, 2006

• News & Observer Wilde Award for Best Retelling, 2006

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The Matzo Ball Boy
Illustrator: Rosanne Litzinger
G.P. Putnam’s Sons