Review: Lilah Tov / Good Night

Lilah Tov / Good Night by Ben Bundersheimer (Mister G), illustrated by Noar Lee Naggan

Category: Picture Books
Reviewer: Beth Gallego

In this lyrical bedtime book, a deceptively simple text is set beside an immigration story told through the illustrations. Ben Gundersheimer (Mister G) adapts a Hebrew lullaby into rhyming English text that flows with natural rhythm when read aloud. Noar Lee Naggan’s digitally colored pencil sketches suffuse each double-page spread with intense color and animated style. The family - a little girl with dark braids and red kerchief, her bearded father in his flat cap, and her mother, who wears a scarf over her hair and carries a baby in her arms or on her back - eat a simple meal in a small house. The sun sets outside the window, where a golden menorah gleams on the sill. On the next page, “The moon is rising, / big and bright / Time to wish everyone / good night” while Father fastens the menorah to a large pack and Mother ties the red kerchief over her daughter’s hair. The family walks away from the house, into the night, through woods to a shoreline, where they board a small boat. Along the way, chickens, bears, bats, and fish are all wished “Lilah tov,” the only Hebrew words in the otherwise English text. On the other side, the family enters a new house, the family stand before a new house filled with light, opposite a page reading, “Soon you will be ready for dreams.” The final image is of the little girl sleeping in her bed, the menorah on the window beside her. This gentle book is a perfect cozy bedtime read.

In addition to being a calming rhyme to end the day, the details of the menorah and the bilingual Hebrew/English refrain indicate that this refugee family is Jewish. Echoes of family history will be clear to many Jewish parents, who may take this an opportunity to share those particular stories and the broader Jewish immigration experience. This is a delightful book, and a definite contender for the Sydney Taylor Book award.

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Reviewer Beth L. Gallego grew up outside Chicago, earned her Master’s degree in Library and Information Science at the University of Illinois, and promptly moved to sunny Southern California, where she has been a Librarian since 2002.