Daniel, his older sister Naomi, and their parents prepare for Sukkot by building a sukkah in their backyard. As they decorate, Daniel learns about the holiday. Naomi explains that in the sukkah “We’re supposed to see the sky through the roof.” Just like their ancestors, who slept in huts after escaping Egypt, Daniel and Naomi will spend the night in their sukkah. They are usually joined by Grandpa but this year he is sick with a cold so the kids are on their own. Daniel is hesitant, recalling the “scary noises” he heard last year. It doesn’t help that Naomi teases him about being afraid of the dark. She tells Daniel that he won’t be able to bring his night light into the sukkah because there won’t be a way to plug it in. “Do you think our ancestors had night lights…?” she asks. Following a festive dinner, it’s time for bed but Daniel can’t fall asleep. The sukkah feels dark and cold; it’s a far cry from the cheerful place it was earlier that evening. Daniel is fearful of the howling wind and the loud animal sounds he hears. He is also frightened when scary faces appear to be forming on the decorative squashes. Teddy bear in tow, Daniel decides it is “Too hard being an ancestor” and wants to go back inside the house. However, Naomi asks him to stay admitting that she too is feeling a bit spooked. Together, the siblings look up to the sky. As the sparking stars peek through the roof of the sukkah, Naomi realizes that maybe the ancestors did have night lights after all. Daniel recognizes that, like him, maybe “Our ancestors were brave, and a little scared, too.” Finally, the kids fall asleep.
The illustrations cleverly depict the current happenings in the story, including subtext like the sukkah’s traditional decorations of hanging fruits and paper chains. Some pages feature illustrations of the ancestors on their journey; those are in more muted tones. Also shown are elements of Daniel’s imagination including the faces he “sees” on the squashes and the menacing shapes in the shadows.
The book also includes a brief but thoughtful afterword imploring young readers to think about safety and shelter and how it relates to the holiday. The author offers insights into the significance of Sukkot providing a lens which mirrors some modern day childhood experiences. Young readers will enjoy the charming characters and relatable family dynamics, especially between the siblings. Night Lights: A Sukkot Story is a timeless choice.