Never losing its positive view of Judaism, this charming, humorous, focused holiday tale honestly handles the lure of sparkly Christmas for Jewish youngsters. Christmas arrives only in its secular, folkloric, modern cultural trappings; readers will find no liturgy, church scenes or dogma advanced.
Eponymous protagonist Rachel Rosenstein loves Christmas for good reasons: thousands of twinkly lights around the neighborhood; giant, bedecked Christmas trees; Santas, elves, candy canes, glittery tinsel and mountains of presents magnificently wrapped and presented. Who can blame her? She is a sad bystander as all the friends on her block celebrate with joy and loot. Rachel admits she cannot do this because she is Jewish.
Being Jewish does not deny her joy, but it is different and not as alluring by comparison. She admits being Jewish is fun most of the time. She fondly thinks of Shabbat’s warmth, afikomen hunts, shofar blows, eight presents at Hanukkah, yummy latkes. Rachel notes a Jewish friend has a tree; Grandpa’s deprecating response is spot on and hilarious.
Rachel decides to grab a bit of Christmas for herself; her sister ridicules. Rachel writes to Santa, admitting she is Jewish, but so was Jesus. She visits a mall Santa. Will he come down her chimney even though she is Jewish? He instantly sends her off. She puts left over latkes and milk on the fire place, hangs stockings, makes banners declaring love for Santa. She tries to stay awake for the reindeer, but nods off to visions of sugar plums.
Hilarity dampens as distressed Rachel awakes to cold reality. Her mother explains that wanting something very badly does not deny accepting what is. Her family ends Christmas Day in a Chinese Restaurant. Moping Rachel finds non-Christian classmates arriving. They agree the world is full of super celebrations and they should not sigh about one day, even a mega one. Rachel agrees, connects to her identity, but still feels a bit sad.
The illustrations and page layout support the message with mobile vignettes delivering Rachel’s innocence and desire to be included with lovely warmth. This wise, funny, fresh and refreshing picture book is highly recommended for readers ages 4 – 7.Related Content: