(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

The nineteen stories of A Day of Pleasure do not provide a continuous, factually detailed account of Singer’s boyhood. Rather, they constitute a collection of mainly self-contained, but thematically related tales that, when taken together, form a literary autobiography aimed at young readers. Occasionally, the author may have creatively combined separate events into one, and in recalling years long past he has invented dialogues. As a whole, however, the book authentically reflects the external facts of Singer’s boyhood, as well as the truths of life that he discovered in growing up. While his stories are set in the distinct (and for many, unfamiliar) world of Orthodox Polish Jewry—which no longer exists—their human appeal and message are universal. Singer himself writes in his preface that he wished to reveal in his book a world little known to the reader “but which is rich in comedy and tragedy; rich in its individuality, wisdom, foolishness, wildness, and goodness.”

Singer recalls his growing-up years in Warsaw with deep affection. His family was poor and often unable to make ends meet, and their apartment, lit by a kerosene lamp, had neither hot running water nor a bathroom. In addition, his strictly religious parents did not indulge his endless curiosity about the workings of the world and the secrets of nature. Nevertheless, the boy’s imagination, the reader learns, was enriched by the varied, colorful stories that he heard at home from his parents, his older brother Israel Joshua, and his sister, Hinde Esther. He himself began inventing tales of a fantastic nature at an early age, and he told them to his friends at play and at religious instruction. Some of the stories incorporate these tales as dialogue....

(The entire section is 715 words.)