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-PROFILE: Can Rabbi Harvey Tame the Wild West -- and Graphic Novels, too? (David Crumm, April 23, 2008, Read the Spirit)
Quite simply, people have fallen in love with this character, because New York-based writer and artist Steve Sheinkin is taking Rabbi Harvey even further than Caine dared to tread.

Rabbi Harvey is taming the Wild West without lethal force -- in fact, without gunfire or martial arts of any kind. Rabbi Harvey is taming the Wild West with centuries of Jewish folk wisdom.

The tales in these paperback books are an absolute delight as he turns around the lives of even the most ruthless killers!

In recent years, I've talked a number of times with Sheinkin from his home base in Brooklyn. At 39, Sheinkin may have the perfect eclectic background to create something so innovative. He grew up in a home steeped in Judaism -- and full of thick books of Jewish folk tales -- but he didn't grow up as an obsessive fan of comic books or Westerns.

When I telephoned him to prepare this story, he told me that he came to Westerns and comics almost backwards -- through "Star Wars" and other films that sprang from the roots of pulp fiction and Hollywood cliff hangers. In other words, he wasn't a die-hard fan of any particular genre and was free to mix and match elements he enjoyed.

"When I was a kid," he told me, "everything was all about 'Star Wars.' I wasn't the right age to have seen the original Clint Eastwood movies. For me, I came to all of this as an adult. When I got older, for example, I got into John Ford movies and John Wayne Westerns, especially. I love 'Rio Bravo' and I used that the most for visual references as I designed scenes for Rabbi Harvey."

Although Jewish Lights, which published The Adventures of Rabbi Harvey, is local, I'd never heard of this series until I found the first installment on the shelf at a thrift store. It looked intriguing enough so I bought it and it turned out to be 75 cents well spent.

The natural point of comparison here is not just Kung Fu but Gene Wilder's pretty dreadful Frisco Kid and even Harry Kemmelman's Rabbi Small. As Mr. Sheinkin explains in his Introduction, his two favorite books as a kid were 101 Jewish Stories and a collection of Wild West tales. His Rabbi Harvey combines the two. Having grown up in the Adirondack's he travels to the fictional town of Elk Spring, CO where he becomes the local rabbi and "The Human Scale," so known for his "famous ability to listen to two sides of any dispute, weigh the evidence, and come up with a fair judgment." Rather than a six-shooter he relies on Talmudic wisdom, seemingly infinite patience, and quick wit to settle all kinds of arguments and to trick people into doing the right thing despite themselves.

The stories are simply told, with very basic folkish artwork, but they're uniformly comical and often profound. It's a great deal of fun.


Grade: (A)


Steve Sheinkin Links:

    -BOOK SITE: Rabbi Harvey
    -PUBLISHER'S BOOK SITE: Adventures of Rabbi Harvey (Jewish Lights)
    -GOOGLE BOOK: The Adventures of Rabbi Harvey by Steve Sheinkin
    -GOOGLE BOOK: Rabbi Harvey Rides Again
    -Macmillan Books: Steve Sheinkin
    -STORY: Rabbi Harvey Leaves (Steve Sheinkin, J Books)
    -STORY: The Rabbi's Cat (Steve Sheinkin, J Books)
    -PROFILE: Can Rabbi Harvey Tame the Wild West -- and Graphic Novels, too? (David Crumm, April 23, 2008, Read the Spirit)
    -PROFILE: Get Along, Little Diaspora: The Weinstein JCC's Book Fair explores the rich Jewish history of the Wild West through two writers. (Valley Haggard, 11/25/08, Style Weekly)
    -PROFILE: 90 to watch in '09! (The Brooklyn Paper, 1/02/09)
    -REVIEW: of The Adventures of Rabbi Harvey bu Steve Sheinkin (Max Gross, The Forward)
    -REVIEW: of Adventures of Rabbi Harvey (Dan Clanton, Society of Biblical Literature)
    -REVIEW: of Adventures of Rabbi Harvey (Rabbi Louis A. Rieser, Church and Synagogue Library Association)
    -REVIEW: of Adventures of Rabbi Harvey (Marie, Boston Bibliophile)
    -REVIEW: of Adventures of Rabbi Harvey (Children's Lit)
    -REVIEW: of Adventures of Rabbi Harvey (Bradley Klein, age 10, Moment)
    -REVIEW: of Rabbi Harvey Rides Again (Marie, Boston Bibliophile)
    -REVIEW: of King George, What was his Problem by Steve Sheinkin (Elizabeth Bird, School Library Journal)

Book-related and General Links: