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.