Kar-Ben and Sesame Street have another hit in their partnership of books with Jewish content. Grover goes to Israel, in the fifth book in the series. The familiar furry blue friend is extremely up-to-date as he sends email from his trusty blue laptop to his friends at home. He takes the bus into Jerusalem, trades dollars for shekels, and learns not only to say Shalom, which means hello, but is confused by the concept that Shalom also means good-bye and peace.
When he arrives at the bus station in Jerusalem, he is met by his friends Brosh and Avigail, and finds everyone rushing around preparing for Shabbat. Starting on the first day, he regularly sends email accompanied by pictures describing his daily adventures. The illustrations, allegedly from his camera or laptop, lend vitality and reality to the story. On his first day he is pictured buying flowers for Shabbat, and the second picture portrays him putting a prayer for Abby’s sick grandmother into a crack in the Kotel.
The descriptions are funny and extremely true to Grover. On an archeological dig, he finds a fuzzy blue hair in the dirt, which he sends a picture of to his friends but he then finds it was from his own head! In addition, as it turns out, a tennis sneaker in the dirt belongs to another member of the group.
Some of the additional places he visits are Machane Yehuda, an enormous market in Jerusalem; Masada, where he gets exhausted hiking the Snake Path (his email that day describes the Snake Path as “a long walk up and a long walk down”, and is signed by Your Tired Pal, Grover); Yam Kinneret, the Sea of Galilee; and the Dead Sea. His email from this lowest place on earth is signed, “Your salty monster, Grover”. He takes a camel ride on Fatima across the desert and visits a Bedouin tent. In Eilat, he swims with the dolphins. When he gets hungry he eats a messy felafel — which looks a lot like meatballs but is made of chickpeas — and a ripe pomegranate. He is also a volunteer on a kibbutz, which he makes real for the reader. On the last day he plants a tree with his own hands, in honor of his Sesame Street friends.
Grover is as cute and adorable as always, and fills his reports home with wonderful humor. The descriptions of his adventures are always age-appropriate for the designated audience. There is rhythm in his story, and the reader can truly hear Grover speaking the words he is writing. The illustrations are true to life and add to the travelogue. Colorful illustrations of the undersea life near Eilat are particularly outstanding.
Recommended as a read-to for readers ages 2 – 5.