Review: Buen Shabat, Shabbat Shalom

Buen Shabat, Shabbat Shalom by Sarah Aroeste, illustrated by Ayesha L. Rubio

Category: Picture Books
Reviewer: Bridget Hodder

BUEN SHABAT, SHABBAT SHALOM is a board book. The text comprises one playful, free-rhyming couplet for each double page, setting the calm and happy scene of a loving Sephardic family celebrating Shabbat. important can a board book be?

Quite important, as it turns out.

Since the authentic Jewish culture and Ladino language of the Sephardim are in danger of disappearing from the world, and are particularly invisible in the United States, it's important to raise awareness. It's also important to start educating our children about Sephardic culture very early. In literary terms, you can't get an earlier start than within the chunky cardboard pages of a board book.

The Sephardic author, Sarah Aroeste, is also a singer-songwriter, making her a wonderful voice to "chant" the simple, sacred pleasures of her culture's Shabbat ("Shabat" in Ladino). The illustrator, Ayesha L. Rubio, expresses the Middle Eastern and Spanish roots of the Sephardim in her clean and charming visuals. The parents and children have glowing brown skin; Jamsa Hands decorate the dining room wall; a Moroccan-style lamp dangles from the ceiling; and what appears to be an Ottoman-style tea set rests on the sideboard (though perhaps the lack of uniquely identifiable Sephardic foods on the table spread was a missed opportunity). Parents can use the comparison of Ashkenazic and Sephardic traditions as a springboard for learning when sharing this delightful book with their little ones. Or they can simply allow the visual details and appealing rhythms of the Ladino language to sink in and find a subconscious home in their hearts.

We need more early picture books like this, reflecting the diversity of the Jewish experience for our youngest learners. A lovely addition to your children's home library!

(Further suggested reading: When children are a bit older and ready to learn more about the history of Sephardic Jews, try THE KEY FROM SPAIN: FLORY JAGODA AND HER MUSIC by Debbie Levy, a Sydney Taylor Honor book, also from Kar-Ben.)

This meritorious little book puts a diverse, authentic Jewish experience into a positive light for our very youngest picture book readers, in a style that's accessible to them. As such, it is a lovely contender for an award.

Are you interested in reviewing books for The Sydney Taylor Shmooze? Click here!

Reviewer Bridget Hodder's first Middle Grade novel was THE RAT PRINCE from Macmillan/ Farrar, Straus & Giroux. THE RAT PRINCE was a Children's Choice starred selection, and was shortlisted for the Aslan Award in Children's Fantasy Literature.

Stay tuned for Bridget's next Middle Grade project, THE BUTTON BOX, a PJ Our Way selection co-authored with Sydney Taylor Silver Medalist Fawzia Gilani. The first in a magical time travel series, THE BUTTON BOX features Sephardic and Muslim characters and exciting adventures throughout Jewish history. Coming soon, from Lerner Books!