Starlight Soup: A Sukkot Story

Elana Rubin­stein, Jen­nifer Naalchi­gar (Illus­tra­tor)

  • Review
By – September 20, 2021

In this sequel to Once Upon an Apple Cake, author Elana Rubin­stein rein­tro­duces us to Sar­alee Siegel, a charm­ing pro­tag­o­nist with an inter­est­ing and unusu­al tal­ent — Sar­alee’s super-sen­si­tive nose can iso­late every ingre­di­ent in any recipe, and she can dupli­cate the recipe for Siegel House, the kosher restau­rant owned and run by her fam­i­ly. Sar­alee not only has olfac­to­ry tal­ent but is also high­ly com­pet­i­tive and will work long and hard to ensure the suc­cess of the fam­i­ly business.

The hol­i­day of Sukkot is approach­ing and Sar­alee and her Zaidy are brain­storm­ing: what new recipe can they con­coct for the hol­i­day meals in the restau­ran­t’s sukkah? It needs to be a recipe that will wow the cus­tomers. It needs to be unfor­get­table, spec­tac­u­lar, and deli­cious beyond descrip­tion. This dish needs to be the best ever served. One evening, Sar­alee notices the beau­ti­ful stars twin­kling above. They seem to have a radi­ant, won­der­ful fra­grance. This inspires her to invent a recipe that is both unusu­al and mag­i­cal — starlight soup. The soup is so mag­i­cal that it tastes to each per­son who sips it exact­ly like that per­son­’s very favorite food. With starlight soup on the menu, how can Siegel House go wrong?

Sar­alee’s friend, Harold, is also from a restau­rant-own­ing fam­i­ly. Their restau­rant, Per­fec­tion on a Plat­ter, is a rival to Siegel House. Per­fec­tion on a Plat­ter also hopes to attract the town’s cus­tomers this Sukkot. Harold sug­gests that the two fam­i­lies join forces and coop­er­ate, but Sar­alee is so sure that her mag­i­cal starlight soup will beat any oth­er recipe offered that she refus­es to coop­er­ate. She is cer­tain that starlight soup will shine. What Sar­alee does­n’t real­ize, though, is that you can’t always trust mag­ic. Unlike friend­ship, mag­ic is not reli­able. Unlike friend­ship, mag­ic may not come through when need­ed. Sar­alee learns that rely­ing on friend­ship and coop­er­a­tion is safer and bet­ter than rely­ing on any mag­i­cal soup. Friend­ship may be the true mag­ic; it per­sists over time.

An amus­ing mid­dle grade chap­ter book with like­able char­ac­ters and an acces­si­ble for­mat, Starlight Soup deliv­ers a clear mes­sage about friend­ship, trust, Jew­ish tra­di­tion, and sen­si­tiv­i­ty to those who share one’s world. In short, Starlight Soup sparkles.

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.

Discussion Questions