The Chal­lah Girl

Bracha K. Sharp, Ani­ta Tung (illus.)

  • Review
By – February 1, 2021

In this short, sweet folk­tale, the prince of the land has for­got­ten how to smile or laugh. Nat­u­ral­ly, all the inhab­i­tants of the king­dom want to help. They each try as hard as they can to pro­duce a spe­cial gift that will please the prince and bring the miss­ing smile back to his somber face. Young Zla­ta Leah has a won­der­ful chal­lah recipe; she bakes it each Fri­day so the chal­lah is fresh and tasty for Shab­bat. Her fam­i­ly is con­vinced that this is the finest chal­lah to be found any­where. Zla­ta Leah thinks that per­haps a taste of her spe­cial chal­lah will be just what is need­ed to cure the prince of his unfor­tu­nate mal­a­dy. On the advice of the wise rab­bi, she sets off for the palace with a bag of ingre­di­ents hop­ing to find success.

This sim­ple sto­ry turns out not to be about bak­ing, at all. The miss­ing ingre­di­ent is nei­ther flour, hon­ey, nor the prop­er num­ber of eggs. Zla­ta Leah’s recipe does the trick because she refus­es to let the many obsta­cles she faces deter her from her goal, and her most impor­tant ingre­di­ents are gen­er­ous help­ings of care and con­cern, accom­pa­nied by prayers for the prince’s wel­fare. The hap­pi­ly-ever-after end­ing, in which the young bak­er wins both a new job and roman­tic love, empha­sizes hard work and seri­ous­ness of pur­pose, remind­ing the read­er that even love between a prince and a loy­al sub­ject needs to be earned by hav­ing them get to know one anoth­er and by shar­ing a com­mon goal.

The pas­tel and mixed media illus­tra­tions show facial expres­sions, while evok­ing a far-away fan­ta­sy king­dom and sub­tly draw the read­er into this tale of love, gen­eros­i­ty, and delec­table, mouth-water­ing challah.

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