Around the World in One Shabbat

Dur­ga Yael Bernhard
  • Review
By – August 30, 2011
The sub­ti­tle of this pic­ture book is Jew­ish Peo­ple Cel­e­brate the Sab­bath Togeth­er,” and that is both its gist and its strength. Page by page, the read­er expe­ri­ences the week­ly Shab­bat rit­u­als that remain con­stant and com­pre­hen­si­ble around the globe, from Fri­day morn­ing shop­ping through to Hav­dalah on Sat­ur­day evening. Each seg­ment of the day takes place in a dif­fer­ent loca­tion, with a total of 13 coun­tries rep­re­sent­ed on six con­ti­nents. Shab­bat del­i­ca­cies are pur­chased in Jerusalem’s Machane Yehu­dah mar­ket­place, chal­lah is braid­ed in Buenos Aires, can­dles are lit in Istan­bul, a fam­i­ly attends syn­a­gogue in France, etc. How­ev­er, it is impor­tant to men­tion that aside from the name of the locale and a few culi­nary ref­er­ences, most of the places vis­it­ed in this book are tex­tu­al­ly indis­tin­guish­able from one anoth­er. In fact the text is both engag­ing and rather gener­ic, focus­ing on what Jews share in their obser­vance of the Sab­bath while neglect­ing to high­light ways in which local cul­ture influ­ences the cel­e­bra­tion. Pic­to­ri­al­ly the book is mod­er­ate­ly more suc­cess­ful. Warm­ly hued gouache illus­tra­tions are pleas­ant and appeal­ing, nice­ly por­tray­ing lov­ing fam­i­lies eat­ing togeth­er, pray­ing togeth­er, and rest­ing togeth­er. Yet once again sev­er­al coun­tries seem inter­change­able, with visu­al rep­re­sen­ta­tions that lack rec­og­niz­able cues which might dif­fer­en­ti­ate one coun­try from anoth­er. (A map of the loca­tions would have added inter­est to the nar­ra­tive.) Thus one is left to won­der if the pur­pose of this book is to present a multi­na­tion­al, mul­ti­cul­tur­al look at the cel­e­bra­tion of Shab­bat, or to demon­strate that no mat­ter where Jews live, cel­e­brat­ing Shab­bat is always the same. What­ev­er the intent, this book presents the Sab­bath in a lov­ing light, and that it does very well. For ages 5 – 9.
Teri Mark­son has been a children’s librar­i­an for over 18 years. She is cur­rent­ly the act­ing senior librar­i­an at the Val­ley Plaza Branch Library in North Hol­ly­wood, CA.

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