How can something be old and new? When it's a marvelous new book by Mark Podwal.
Built by Angels: The Story of the Old New Synagogue (Harcourt) is Podwal's 12th children's book and one of his best. Based on the story of the Altneuschul, meaning Old-New Synagogue, in the city of Prague, this book sings with color as it poetically weaves the tale of the world's oldest still operational synagogue. Podwal reveals the many facts and legends surrounding the place where angels are said to have used "square stones, round stones, stone doors, stone floors, stones carved like leaves, others like grapes..." to create a special place for Jews to pray. It was in a nearby river in Prague that the Great Rabbi Loew is said to have made a golem, a being created from clay, fashioned to protect the Jews of Prague. Rabbi Loew long ago passed away, but his chair by the synagogue's eastern wall remains empty, and the golem rests locked in the dusty attic where it "must not be disturbed lest it go wild and hurl houses into the clouds as it once did..."
Built by Angels closes with an author's note loaded with facts such as, "Symbolizing the twelve tribes of Israel are twelve high windows," and a short bibliography. With words of simple wisdom and luminous art of acrylic, gouache and colored pencils, Podwal himself has made the inanimate come to life in a delightful book of meaning and charm.