The Entertainer and the Dybbuk, published by Greenwillow Books in 2007, is a young adult novel by Sid Fleischman.
The story is set just after the end of World War II. Freddie is an American soldier who has remained in Europe after the war. He is a ventriloquist that performs in different clubs. Freddie is not particularly talented and audiences complain that they can see his lips move. After returning home from one of the clubs, Freddie finds the ghost of a young boy in his closet, or a dybbuk (which is a Jewish ghost or spirit).
The ghost is a twelve-year-old boy that was killed by the Nazis during the war in their attempt to eliminate the Jews. The boy's name was Avrom Amos Poliakov. The reader learns that a dybbuk is a victim of the Holocaust with unfinished tasks. The ghost must complete them before relaxing in an afterlife.
Avrom is determined in the completion of his unfinished tasks. He asks Freddie if he can inhabit Freddie’s body during his shows. Freddie is uncertain about this proposition, as he fears he may need to do something in return for the ghost. He quickly learns that he does not have a choice.
Suddenly, Freddie's ventriloquist act becomes a great success with Avrom inhabiting his body. The crowds grow larger and larger as he travels throughout Europe. Avrom starts to use these opportunities as a way to find his killer in the audiences. He calls out for the SS officer who he shot him and his sister. Freddie’s ventriloquism becomes a funny, mournful, and sarcastic act. The crowds love it.
Readers may be startled by the language of the dybbuk, which is a Yiddish-inspired English that sounds raw and embittered. Avrom communicates a difficult message and includes disturbing facts about the murdering of the Jewish children. Fleischman includes awful details of Nazi brutality throughout the novel. Critics note, however, that the author creates an educational, compassionate, and magical story. The Entertainer and the Dybbuk takes on a highly unusual subject and furnishes an entertaining experience for readers.