And Twelve Chinese Acrobats

Based on a family story that has grown enormously over the years, this book is about the time the Yolens lived in the Ukraine and the oldest boy Lev (my Uncle Lou) was a troublemaker. Sent away to a military academy–an enormous decision for a Jewish family–he gambled away the gold buttons on his uniform and disappeared. Deep in the winter, he came home, marching at the head of a troop of Chinese acrobats from the Moscow circus. The family was not amused. Or else they were. It depended upon which family member you asked. I tell the story from my father’s point of view, who was a small boy then. I am very fond of this book.

What reviewers have said:

  • “The relationship between the two brothers…lends an immediate dynamic to the historical setting…the compressed narrative, brief chapters, spacious format, large print, and Jean Gralley’s vivaciously detailed pen-and-ink illustrations dancing across almost every page make this a prime choice for young readers venturing into historical fiction for the first time, or, for that matter, considering a probe into their own family stories.”–Bulletin for the Center of Children’s Books
  • “…radiating family warmth, in words, art, and remembrance.”–Kirkus
  • “Told with the simple richness of a folk tale, this is partly a comical vignette about a loveable rascal and partly a story about growing up and learning to appreciate our idols for who they really are. The realities of family life are depicted with warmth and humor, also captured in the absurd black & white illustrations.” — NOTES FROM THE WINDOWSILL
  • “Yolen at her best: animated, amusing, and permeated by affection but not sentimentality.”  –Children and Books, Zena Sutherland, 9th edition
  • “. . .she’s filled this story with poignancy, panache, love and the truth, too.”—Family Life Magazine
  • “…this nostalgic story sits in the niche where family folklore and historical fact grow together. Mood and setting comfortably are especially well conveyed.”—School Library Journal
  • “The compressed narrative, brief chapters, spacious format, large print, and vivaciously drafted pen-and-ink illustrations dancing across almost every page all make this a prime choice for young readers venturing into historical fiction for the first time. . .”—Bulletin of the Children’s Book Center

Out of print.


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