Review: Hillel Builds a House

Hillel Builds a House by Shoshana Lepon, illustrated by Ángeles Ruiz

Category: Picture Books
Reviewer: Laurie Adler

Hillel builds houses everywhere- out of boxes, pillows, sheets, or whatever is on hand. This book by Shoshana Lepon takes us on a tour through the Jewish year as Hillel seeks out the perfect Jewish holiday in which to indulge his passion. No festival is quite right until, predictably, the holiday of Sukkot arrives, and Hillel can construct a sukkah, or temporary dwelling. Sukkot is indeed the perfect time to build a house.

This straightforward story has enough details about each Jewish holiday to save it from being a niche book about Sukkot. The standout illustrations by Ángeles Ruiz, full of soft blues and vivid oranges, keep the reader engaged by showing Hillel's interactions with his family and his multiracial Jewish community.

Hillel Builds a House was originally published in 1993, but was redesigned this year with new illustrations and is thus eligible for the Sydney Taylor Book Award. The book has positive Jewish content and is appropriate for its intended audience of young children aged three to six. The modernized illustrations strike a balance between authenticity and diversity within the Jewish experience, and make Hillel Builds a House eligible to be a contender for the 2020 Sydney Taylor Book Award.

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Reviewer Laurie Adler has over fifteen years of library and classroom experience in providing library services readers' advisory to children of all ages. She is currently the Head Librarian at Ramaz Elementary School in New York City.