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, the 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.