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.