Book Bag: Cheryl Elizabeth Waddell’s ‘Rockrhydin’; Jane Kaufman’s ‘Our Stories: The Jews of Western Massachusetts’

Last modified: Friday, January 17, 2014


By Cheryl Elizabeth Waddell

Theme song by Fern Carver Michonski

Christmas 2013 may have just passed, but there’s always the next Christmas to look forward to, as well as the general spirit of the holidays. That’s the theme of “Rockrhydin,” a richly illustrated children’s book about a boy’s love of his rocking horse and a magical Christmas gift that might be able to preserve the horse — in a certain fashion — for the boy.

“Rockrhydin,” which won an endorsement by the Mom’s Choice Awards for family-friendly products, includes text by former Williamsburg resident Cheryl Elizabeth Waddell and a link to a downloadable theme song by children’s songwriter and performer Fern Carver Michonski, another former Hilltown resident. Waddell, who now lives in Holyoke, and Michonski, of Connecticut, both also once lived or worked in Southampton.

At the center of their story is a little boy named Jon Michael who spends hours rocking on his wooden horse, Rockrhydin, even as he outgrows the toy. As he gets older, Jon Michael gets a new room and a bigger bed, violin lessons and other trappings of a growing boy, but he still likes to poke his head into the old nursery sometimes and look at the worn rocking horse.

But one day, the boy discovers his father has gotten rid of Rockrhydin and some older toys, and he cries in his room. He’s not the only one saddened: Rockrhydin, shivering in a snowy junkyard, despairs at ever seeing Jon Michael again.

But the horse gets a visit from Tanyabelle, the keeper of Christmas wishes, and Rockrhydin discovers that Christmas wishes don’t have any “nevers” — that he can be reunited with Jon Michael in a different way if he’s willing to accept the gift Tanyabelle’s offering.

The illustrations in “Rockrhydin” are by California artist Janice Prey Wolfe. The book is available for sale at the Williamsburg General Store and at various online sites, including Michonski’s website.


Edited by Jane Kaufman

The Republican/Heritage Book and Travel Series

This hardbound, coffee-table-style book, put together with assistance by the Springfield Republican newspaper — the lead editor is Jane Kaufman, a longtime Republican reporter and copy editor — provides both a short history of the Jewish community of western Massachusetts and profiles of various individuals and their family histories.

These portraits are divided into chapters that address themes, such as food in Chapter 2: “Ah, But is it Kosher?” The chapter includes a profile of Gus & Paul’s kosher bakery in Springfield, started in the late 1940s by Gus and Paul Weisman and now owned by Gordon Weisman, Paul’s son. It’s the kind of place, as the books says, that “summon(s) imaginings of rugelach, challah, zizel and the decadent — and pareve — chocolate pinwheel torte.”

The book also offers portraits of Jewish schools, community organizations and notable people, from the growing ranks of female rabbis to artists like the late Elliot Offner of Northampton, a sculptor and Smith College professor of art whose work is located around the campus. In addition, many historic photos, some from the 19th century, are included.

Some of the history touches on little-known stories, like that of Leopold Karpeles, a Jew originally from Prague, then part of the Austro-Hungarian empire. He immigrated to the United States in 1847, settling eventually in Springfield, from where he joined the Union Army during the Civil War and became one of six Jews to win the Congressional Medal of Honor, in his case for bravery exhibited at the Battle of the Wilderness in Virginia in 1864.

In addition to Kaufman, “Our Stories” includes written contributions from 11 other writers, including current and former Republican staff members.


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