Cheese­cake for Shavuot

Alli­son Ofanasky; Eliyahu Alpern, illus.
  • Review
By – May 29, 2013
Cheese­cake for Shavuot is a mag­nif­i­cent pic­ture book with a thought­ful ratio between the text and the pho­tographs, with pages that vary in back­ground col­or and with pho­tographs that vary in size, giv­ing the book an inter­est­ing and orig­i­nal look. 

The endear­ing sto­ry fol­lows a group of chil­dren, led by an imag­i­na­tive and inspir­ing teacher, as they pre­pare over the course of a year for the hol­i­day of Shavuot in a hands-on man­ner. They plant wheat in the fall and watch it grow. When the time comes to har­vest the wheat in the spring, they refer to what they have learned in the Book of Ruth and wish to leave the glean­ings for the poor. 

After some dis­cus­sion, they real­ize that this ancient cus­tom is passé in mod­ern times and and choose the alter­na­tive of feed­ing some of the stalks to the goats at a near­by pet­ting zoo, a beau­ti­ful sub­sti­tute update to an ancient Jew­ish cus­tom, and also a green and envi­ron­men­tal­ly-friend­ly mes­sage. The reward for their good deed is fresh goat cheese, which will go straight into the cheese­cake they plan to bake for the hol­i­day. They thresh, win­now and grind the rest of the wheat to make a crust and then put the ingre­di­ents togeth­er to make and bake the cheese­cake. Straw­ber­ries from the school gar­den are the icing” on the cake. The book clos­es with pic­tures of the chil­dren enjoy­ing the fruit of their hands and their hard work. 

This book is a delight, focus­ing on the simul­ta­ne­ous chal­lenge and sim­plic­i­ty of this cre­ative project, which teach­es about the hol­i­day and the envi­ron­ment. It includes a recipe for the cheese­cake and infor­ma­tion about the hol­i­day of Shavuot. Rec­om­mend­ed for ages 3 – 11.
Noa Paz Wahrman is a Jew­ish stud­ies librar­i­an and bib­li­og­ra­ph­er at Indi­ana Uni­ver­si­ty in Bloom­ing­ton IN.

Discussion Questions