Night Lights: A Sukkot Story

Bar­bara Dia­mond Goldin, Amberin Huq (illus.)

  • Review
By – September 10, 2020

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.

Jil­lian Bietz stud­ied library tech­nol­o­gy and research skills and cur­rent­ly works in the library sys­tem. She is a book review­er for the Jew­ish Book Coun­cil and Kirkus Review Indie. Jil­lian lives in South­ern California.

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