Dear San­ta, Love, Rachel Rosenstein

Aman­da Peet and Andrea Troy­er; Chris­tine Dav­e­nier, illus.
  • Review
By – June 22, 2016

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:

Ellen G. Cole, a retired librar­i­an of the Levine Library of Tem­ple Isa­iah in Los Ange­les, is a past judge of the Syd­ney Tay­lor Book Awards and a past chair­per­son of that com­mit­tee. She is a co-author of the AJL guide, Excel­lence in Jew­ish Children’s Lit­er­a­ture. Ellen is the recip­i­ent of two major awards for con­tri­bu­tion to Juda­ic Librar­i­an­ship, the Fan­ny Gold­stein Mer­it Award from the Asso­ci­a­tion of Jew­ish Libraries and the Dorothy Schroed­er Award from the Asso­ci­a­tion of Jew­ish Libraries of South­ern Cal­i­for­nia. She is on the board of AJLSC.

Discussion Questions