Here is another successful story by Eric Kimmel, noted winner of the Sydney Taylor award for lifetime achievement. It is a playful version of the folktale, The Little Red Hen, re-told for Rosh Hashanah. Little Red Rosie involves her animal friends in helping to prepare challah for the neighbors’ holiday dinner. Each one is happy to assist, unlike the peers of the little red hen. Unfortunately, attempts to measure the flour together result in a huge flour-based mess; kneading the dough and shaping it into challah, brushing it with egg and sprinkling it with poppy seeds, all end in terrible chaos in the kitchen. The interactions between Rosie and her bird helpers are lovely, and the biggest success is when the three animals—toucan, parrot, and hornbill—all sit on the dough to warm it as though it is an egg in the nest waiting to hatch! As the challah is baking to a golden brown, the neighbors start to arrive. Rosie has set the table with apples, honey, a pomegranate, and the finished challah, in addition to a decorative shofar, kiddush cup, and two candles.
As the room fills, Rosie suggests that all the neighbors and her helpers hold hands as she recites the blessing on the challah, to which everyone answers “Amen”, and the animals are congratulated for their excellent assistance. Naturally, the birds all do a wonderful job of helping to eat the fresh bread.
Kimmel effectively uses the idea of involving the animals, who clearly are representations of young children. The mess is made, but the characters learn to help in a sweet way. The mitzvah of hachnasat orchim—welcoming guests—is presented as a beautiful concept. In addition, the universality of the neighborhood coming together to celebrate the New Year indicates wishes for everyone to have a good year.
The whimsical text is followed by a one-page letter to the young reader (and their caregiver) discussing some of the Jewish concepts in the book and also discusses developmental issues such as helping others, taking responsibility, encouraging new skills, and exhibiting kindness and patience.