The Can­dy Man Mystery

Rab­bi Ker­ry Olitzky, Christi­na Mat­ti­son Ebert (Illus­tra­tor)

  • Review
By – November 17, 2021

What would syn­a­gogue atten­dance be like for a child with­out the ven­er­a­ble insti­tu­tion of the high­ly respect­ed can­dy man (or some­times can­dy woman)? The can­dy man is a fix­ture in many syn­a­gogues, and every­one seems to know who he is and that his pock­ets are filled with deli­cious treats that he loves to dis­trib­ute. The can­dy man sweet­ens the syn­a­gogue expe­ri­ence for the com­mu­ni­ty’s chil­dren and is esteemed by all.

In The Can­dy Man Mys­tery, Mr. Sha­ran­sky, the can­dy man at Josh’s syn­a­gogue, also told sil­ly jokes, taught the chil­dren words in his native Russ­ian, helped the adults build the sukkah, par­tic­i­pat­ed in kitchen duties, and worked in the gift shop. Every­one loved Mr. Sha­ran­sky! One day Mr. Sha­ran­sky was nowhere to be found. Josh and his sis­ter, Becky, searched every­where. They asked the can­tor if she knew where he was, but she had no idea. They asked the leader of the junior con­gre­ga­tion, who was teach­ing the younger chil­dren to sign the She­ma in Amer­i­can Sign Lan­guage, but she did­n’t know either. A group of Mr. Sha­ran­sky’s pals were also in the dark about the where­abouts of their friend. The rab­bi, when asked, was the only one who knew that Mr. Sha­ran­sky had been tak­en ill. The chil­dren and their par­ents, per­form­ing the impor­tant mitz­vah of bikur cholim, vis­it­ing the sick, went to vis­it their dear friend in the hos­pi­tal after ser­vices. Know­ing how sad Mr. Sha­ran­sky had been to miss ser­vices, the chil­dren sang the Adon Olam right in his hos­pi­tal room, and then Josh reached into his pock­et and gave Mr. Sha­ran­sky a piece of can­dy he had been sav­ing to sweet­en the day of his elder­ly friend.

This is a sto­ry filled with heart, with joy, and with the love of good deeds. A kind, gen­er­ous gen­tle­man who spent his days mak­ing peo­ple hap­py was treat­ed to the same warmth and car­ing he reg­u­lar­ly showed oth­ers. The val­ues of giv­ing, vis­it­ing the sick, com­mu­ni­ty ser­vice, and inclu­sion are high­light­ed, pro­vid­ing myr­i­ad gen­tle lessons for the read­er to absorb. The col­or illus­tra­tions fea­ture sweet faces and the bus­tle of an active com­mu­ni­ty. Back mat­ter includes the words of the She­ma in Eng­lish and Hebrew, a glos­sary of terms, and the Amer­i­can Sign Lan­guage instruc­tions for sign­ing the She­ma.

This sto­ry is even sweet­er than the can­dy for which it is named.

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