Yom Kip­pur Shortstop

David A. Adler; Andre Ceolin, illus.
  • Review
By – June 6, 2017

In 1965, Los Ange­les Dodger star pitch­er Sandy Koufax told his team he wouldn’t pitch in the World Series open­ing game against the Min­neso­ta Twins because it fell on Yom Kip­pur. While Koufax doesn’t fea­ture in this sto­ry, his deci­sion is the inspi­ra­tion for David Adler’s won­der­ful new book. Jacob loves play­ing short­stop on his Lit­tle League team, and becomes a hero to his team­mates when he catch­es the ball for a final out in the penul­ti­mate game of the year. That means the Lions are head­ed for a cham­pi­onship, but, as Jacob’s father reminds him, the cham­pi­onship game falls on Yom Kip­pur. Dad says, Think about what you want to do.” This sets the stage for a more thought­ful and com­plex book than one might expect, for by giv­ing Jacob the respon­si­bil­i­ty to decide whether or not he’ll play in the game, Adler also gives the read­er an oppor­tu­ni­ty to think about what deci­sion s/​he might make in a sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tion. Erev Yom Kip­pur Jacob and his fam­i­ly eat a meal and go to syn­a­gogue, where the rab­bi ser­mo­nizes about the con­nec­tions of Jews to their fam­i­lies, the com­mu­ni­ty, and the world. The next day Jacob returns to shul with his par­ents, but he brings his uni­form with him. He lis­tens to the rab­bi tell the sto­ry of Jon­ah, empha­siz­ing the impor­tance of prayer. Final­ly it’s time to get ready for the game, and after chang­ing into his uni­form, Jacob starts to head for the field. As I walk, I think about the game … I always try my best but I don’t always suc­ceed. Maybe I can’t con­trol every­thing that hap­pens to me. I stop walk­ing. I look back at the syn­a­gogue.” Choos­ing to par­tic­i­pate in one’s reli­gion is a defin­ing moment, and by giv­ing Jacob this choice, Adler has enriched his nar­ra­tive con­sid­er­ably. Illus­tra­tions fea­ture mul­ti-eth­nic char­ac­ters, reflect­ing the diver­si­ty with­in the Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ty. The depic­tion of Jon­ah in the bel­ly of the whale is par­tic­u­lar­ly charm­ing, while a sil­hou­ette of a man blow­ing the sho­far as the sun goes down brings the solemn hol­i­day to a fit­ting end. A Note for Fam­i­lies” dis­cuss­es Sandy Koufax’s stance and asks read­ers what they think about Jacob’s deci­sion. High­ly rec­om­mend­ed for ages 5 – 10

Teri Mark­son has been a children’s librar­i­an for over 18 years. She is cur­rent­ly the act­ing senior librar­i­an at the Val­ley Plaza Branch Library in North Hol­ly­wood, CA.

Discussion Questions