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.