All memorable stories remain lodged in imaginations, for centuries.

I was hoping to find one in Madonna’s Yakov and the Seven Thieves (2004), sourced from the collection composed by the followers of the eighteenth-century Rabbi Baal Shem Tov. She entitled hers, Yakov and the Seven Thieves, but how she handled the material feels flat.

At the outset, all the components of crisis are laid out: the Angel of Death; the ruse played on the robbers by the Old Man; and Yakov, the impoverished cobbler grieving over his son’s illness. On the back jacket, the author adds”a story even for grown-ups.” Yet, the entire narrative and illustrations are too thin to substantiate the conversion of heart: the whole point of the rabbi’s work among lowly folks in the West Central Ukrainian villages where he taught.

In Madonna’s version of the Rabbi’s story, no shivering, no looking ahead toward the ending, no tears occur. Only the high-tech illustrations by the Russian Gennady Spirin distract in their occasional details that veer on comedy. The needed pitch is absent, especially for the young. I hope I stand corrected upon this assumption.

So where find Titanic struggles that encapsulate our own? Where is the primacy of good played out, as it is, not without periodic clashes?

Seldom do I find significant stories out there…