Form and Content

(Survey of Young Adult Fiction)

The seven stories in this collection recapture a world that no longer exists—that of the pre-World War II, Eastern European Jewish shtetl (village or small town). It is the world that Isaac Bashevis Singer knew as a child, and his stories have their origins in the folklore and legends of the shtetl. Singer wrote them initially in Yiddish, the language of the shtetl, and then translated them into English with his editor, Elizabeth Shub. Award-winning illustrator Maurice Sendak also traces his family roots to the shtetl. Arthur Bell’s review of Zlateh the Goat and Other Stories notes how Sendak’s illustrations resemble early twentieth century photographs of New York City’s Lower East Side, many of whose inhabitants immigrated from Eastern Europe.

The book’s title story, “Zlateh the Goat,” takes place in a shtetl very much like those in which Singer lived as a small boy. A warm winter means bad business for Reuven the furrier, and his young son Aaron is sent to sell the family goat, Zlateh, to a butcher in town. A fierce snowstorm forces them off the path, and they seek shelter in a haystack, which furnishes them warmth and also nourishment. Zlateh eats the hay and feeds Aaron with its milk, and each has a way of comforting the other. On the third night, after the storm has ended, Aaron and Zlateh return home. There is no more talk of selling Zlateh, and, adding to the celebratory mood, the storm has brought colder weather and thus...

(The entire section is 534 words.)


(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

The first story, "Fool's Paradise," begins "Somewhere, sometime, there lived a rich man whose name was Kadish." In this way Singer indicates...

(The entire section is 143 words.)

Literary Qualities

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Singer is neither a literalist nor a crusader. He is first and foremost a storyteller. A major attribute of Singer's literary style is his...

(The entire section is 172 words.)

Social Sensitivity

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

All of the stories in Zlateh the Goat are geographically and culturally circumscribed, almost insulated. They are set in predominantly...

(The entire section is 146 words.)

Topics for Discussion

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

1. What is the Jewish festival of Hanukkah? How does it figure in several of Singer's stories, such as "Grandmother's Tale" and "The Devil's...

(The entire section is 143 words.)

Ideas for Reports and Papers

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

1. Most of these stories take place in winter. Are they "winter's tales" in the sense that Shakespeare uses the term in his play The...

(The entire section is 273 words.)

Related Titles / Adaptations

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Singer's related fiction includes many stories in his collections, such as The Fools of Chelm and Their History and Mazel and...

(The entire section is 169 words.)

For Further Reference

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

Alexander, Edward. Isaac Bashevis Singer. Boston: Twayne, 1980. A critical and biographical study that covers Singer's work up to...

(The entire section is 191 words.)