When a child has been looking forward to a special event and has to miss it because of a family commitment, it is difficult to reassure her that life will go on — especially one for which she has prepared and practiced, such as a music or dance recital. In this lovely story, young Sarah is disappointed to learn that her cousin’s wedding conflicts with the long awaited recital at which she was to dance a solo. Nevertheless, off she goes to the wedding because family is family.
During the wedding, Sarah observes many customs and traditions unique to a Jewish wedding. The bride circles the groom under a chuppah. There is lively hora-style dancing at which the bride and groom are lifted high up on chairs, gazing down at the crowd below. Music and dance are everywhere; the circling under the chuppah looks almost like a dance, and the circle dancing is inclusive and fun. The bride draws Sarah into the center of the circle to dance with her; Sarah, caught up in the joy of the moment, dances on and on. The guests applaud her with fervor and Sarah basks in the sound of the applause. Her concluding curtsy is elegantly executed. Sarah realizes that she has performed her dance solo to an admiring audience! It seems that dreams can come true at unexpected times and in unanticipated ways.
The story is as gracefully presented as a well-rehearsed dance number, and the illustrations whirl the story to even greater heights. The fancy bun atop Sarah’s red hair and her puffy party dress are every aspiring young ballerina’s dream. Homey Jewish touches include a menorah on the family bookshelf and an unmistakable aura of simcha at the wedding. The musicians ooze a klezmer vibe; one can practically hear the music coming off the page. The multicultural crowd, the wheelchair which looks right at home on the dance floor, the mix of young and old celebrating together, all transmit their gentle lessons subtly but clearly.
A clever afterword is both a glossary of terms and a summary of the traditions found at a Jewish wedding, all of which the reader has encountered within the pages of the story. The descriptions incorporate the story itself, making this endnote feel woven into the text as an integral part of the book.
The importance of celebrating milestones with family is highlighted and children (and adults, too) will be reminded that there are many ways to fulfill long-treasured dreams.
Michal Hoschander Malen is the editor of Jewish Book Council’s young adult and children’s book reviews. A former librarian, she has lectured on topics relating to literacy, run book clubs, and loves to read aloud to her grandchildren.