Baxter the pig hears from a man at his bus stop about how wonderful Shabbat is, and that when it starts at sundown, “The candles gleam and glow and dance while our sweetest voices lift in song.” In humorous attempts, he tries to become kosher so that he can attend one of these dinners. He eats lots of pickles, and an enormous amount of challah, but he is told that he has not succeeded in becoming kosher. Then he meets a rabbi, who shows him where it is written in Hebrew in her book that it is a mitzvah to invite strangers to Shabbat dinner, and that he, definitely strange, is welcome at her dinner that evening. Kids will enjoy David Goldin’s cartoon-like illustrations, done in pen, ink, and collage with digital enhancement. His pickle-covered end papers are great fun, and writing “Laurel’s Bakery” on a neighborhood bakery is a clever touch. The book imparts the positive message that everyone, even a pig, is welcome for Shabbat. In the glossary, Laurel Snyder has defined many of the terms used in the story. After she writes that kosher is “food that meets traditional biblical standards for Jewish munching,” with “one important rule that you can’t mix milk and meat together- no cheeseburgers,” she then writes: “a lot of these rules just tell you not to eat certain icky animals you wouldn’t want to eat anyway. For instance, no fried vultures. And no roasted rats!” Although these humorously tie in with the pig theme, many readers who do not know what is involved in keeping kosher may find this confusing. The story would have benefited from a further explanation clarifying the concept of eating kosher food, in this otherwise cleverly illustrated and amusing book with a positive message. Pre-school – grade 2.
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Andrea Davidson is the librarian of The Temple-Tifereth Israel in Beachwood, Ohio. She holds an M.L.S. from the University of Michigan and is a former member of the Sydney Taylor Book Awards Committee. She enjoys trying out the books she reviews on the kids at the Temple and on her grandchildren.