The year is 1892, and Engineer Ari is in charge of driving the train on its first trip from Jaffa to Jerusalem. His pride becomes boastful as he brags to his friends about his important job. As he drives the train through Israel, he collects gifts along the way, including apples, honey, and loaves of round challahs. But his joy is tempered with guilt for having mistreated his friends. As Ari approached Jerusalem with all the Rosh Hashanah treats, he remembers that during Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur it is time to do teshuvah, and decides to drive the train back to his friends to apologize. Kids and trains are a natural combination and the picture book medium is perfect for telling a story of this important time in Israel’s history. Without being didactic, Engineer Ari and the Rosh Hashanah Ride teaches youngsters about the importance of kindness, personal responsibility, and forgiveness. Bodin Cohen has not only recreated an important historical event, she seamlessly connects the event to an essential aspect of Judaism. The illustrations capture the essence of various locations throughout Israel. The color palette subtly shifts with each locale, but the train is bright red throughout. The double spread illustration of the train approaching Jerusalem is particularly lovely. An author’s note provides background information about the train, which will be of interest to teachers and students. Overall, a wonderful ride for pre-school and primary students, and school libraries. For ages 4 – 7.
Barbara Bietz is a freelance writer and children’s book reviewer. She is currently a member of the Sydney Taylor Book Award Committee. Barbara is the author of the middle grade book, Like a Maccabee. She has a blog dedicated to Jewish books for children at www.BarbaraBBookBlog.Blogspot.com.