A Box of Candles

Lau­rie A. Jacobs. Shelly Ephraim, illus.
  • Review
By – October 17, 2011
The box of can­dles is a device to mark time. While the can­dles give light from Shab­bat to Shab­bat and Jew­ish hol­i­day to hol­i­day, a roman­tic sto­ry unfolds. The romance is a bit far from the purview of most pic­ture book read­ers because it involves the remar­riage of a grand­moth­er, an expe­ri­ence most read­ers will not face, how­ev­er, it includes a range of emo­tions from dis­like and jeal­ousy (the new man means less atten­tion from grand­ma) to accep­tance (he does spe­cial things for the grand­daugh­ter) to love (she grows to love him for her­self and because he makes her beloved grand­moth­er hap­py). Ruthie receives the can­dles from Grand­ma Gussie on her sev­enth birth­day. She accepts the gift with thanks and the clear, fore­shad­ow­ing com­ment that she does not like change. The plot unfolds dur­ing the year until her next birth­day, marked by tra­di­tion­al Jew­ish hol­i­days. The boyfriend, Mr. Adler, appears at the very start of the book, thus, read­ers first meet Ruthie as a petu­lant and sad lit­tle girl. Her moods change as the book, divid­ed into chap­ters, moves chrono­log­i­cal­ly. By sum­mer, Ruthie’s emo­tion­al chill thaws. By fall, she throws away her bad thoughts of him at Tash­lich. By win­ter, she miss­es Mr. Adler when he is gone, and by spring, she wants her grand­moth­er to mar­ry him. Each peri­od of time nat­u­ral­ly incor­po­rates infor­ma­tion about Jew­ish cel­e­bra­tions and cus­toms at an age appro­pri­ate lev­el. Full page illus­tra­tions in mut­ed pas­tels echo the soft­ness of the plot. Most of the pic­tures ref­er­ence Jew­ish hol­i­days. This sweet, slow­ly paced sto­ry will appeal to lit­tle girls aged five and six. Glos­sary of Jew­ish terms.

Ellen G. Cole, a retired librar­i­an of the Levine Library of Tem­ple Isa­iah in Los Ange­les, is a past judge of the Syd­ney Tay­lor Book Awards and a past chair­per­son of that com­mit­tee. She is a co-author of the AJL guide, Excel­lence in Jew­ish Children’s Lit­er­a­ture. Ellen is the recip­i­ent of two major awards for con­tri­bu­tion to Juda­ic Librar­i­an­ship, the Fan­ny Gold­stein Mer­it Award from the Asso­ci­a­tion of Jew­ish Libraries and the Dorothy Schroed­er Award from the Asso­ci­a­tion of Jew­ish Libraries of South­ern Cal­i­for­nia. She is on the board of AJLSC.

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