An Egg for Shabbat

Mirik Snir, Eley­or Snir (Illus­tra­tor)

  • Review
By – May 10, 2021

The end­pa­pers of An Egg for Shab­bat fea­ture chick­ens, each one wear­ing a dif­fer­ent col­ored triple-tiered scarf. There are also kit­tens in dif­fer­ent pos­es and an assort­ment of eggs inter­spersed among the ani­mals. Mirik Snir and Eley­or Snir, a moth­er and daugh­ter team, have cre­at­ed a book about prepar­ing for Shab­bat that also teach­es about cause and effect, the pass­ing of time, and the week’s reas­sur­ing cycle of events. Using a com­ic strip for­mat and rhyming text, this clever pic­ture book address­es the age-old ques­tion of which came first, the chick­en or the egg, with a unique­ly Jew­ish spin.

Each sec­tion of the book con­cep­tu­al­izes one day of the week with a num­ber of chick­ens cor­re­spond­ing to that day’s order. Sun­day begins with one bird and one request by Ben’s moth­er to bring her an egg from the ani­mal pen. Pic­tures in blue and gray alter­nate with bright­ly col­ored scenes as cap­tions and word bub­bles tell the sto­ry. At first, Ben exper­i­ments with how to safe­ly trans­port the egg. Lat­er, he learns that, even with the most reli­able method, acci­dents can hap­pen. Legit­i­mate curios­i­ty about what is inside the egg also leads to prob­lems. Ben wor­ries about the pos­si­bil­i­ty of dis­ap­point­ing his moth­er but she patient­ly repeats that he learned a les­son, and that’s fine.” By the end of the week, Ben has syn­the­sized a num­ber of dif­fer­ent lessons which are del­i­cate­ly illus­trat­ed in a minia­ture list includ­ing: I will not toss eggs in the air, No eggs on head, I wouldn’t dare.”

The spe­cial bond between moth­er and child shines in every pic­ture. Ben’s moth­er wears a dark red and white striped tunic, which match­es Ben’s red boots. In anoth­er scene, Ben sits among the chick­ens, lov­ing­ly hold­ing one up to his cheek as he asks him­self, What have I learned so far this week?” His ques­tion echoes his mother’s state­ments about the val­ue of learn­ing from mistakes.

At week’s end, Ben’s moth­er brings out the chal­lah she has baked and asks him to com­plete it by glaz­ing the loaf with eggs; the pur­pose of the week’s events becomes clear to both Ben and to young read­ers. The cel­e­bra­tion of Shab­bat is real­is­ti­cal­ly divid­ed into two pic­tures. The first is a Shab­bat evening table where only Ben and his moth­er are seat­ed, accen­tu­at­ing their close­ness. There are glow­ing can­dles, a sim­ple wine bot­tle and glass, and a col­or­ful bou­quet in a blue-and-white vase mim­ic­k­ing Delft pot­tery. The back­ground of yel­low flow­ers and tiny six-point­ed stars is under­stat­ed. The day of Shab­bat has a more styl­ized rep­re­sen­ta­tion of rest, with moth­er and son lying qui­et­ly against a black and white background.

When Sun­day returns, Ben’s moth­er calls him again. This time, a parade of chick­ens is pre­ced­ed by the prover­bial egg, reaf­firm­ing that Ben’s impor­tant errand to retrieve the egg is real­ly the begin­ning of the Jew­ish week, which will even­tu­al­ly cul­mi­nate in a day of cel­e­bra­tion and rest.

Emi­ly Schnei­der writes about lit­er­a­ture, fem­i­nism, and cul­ture for TabletThe For­wardThe Horn Book, and oth­er pub­li­ca­tions, and writes about chil­dren’s books on her blog. She has a Ph.D. in Romance Lan­guages and Literatures.

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