Review: Sadie's Shabbat Stories

Review: Sadie's Shabbat Stories by Melissa Stoller, illustrated by Lisa Goldberg

Category: Picture Books
Reviewer: Freidele Galya Soban Biniashvili 

In Sadie’s Shabbat Stories, author Stoller has crafted a sweet story about the three Judaic items that are used by Sadie’s grandmother, her Nana, on Shabbat: “silver candlesticks, a sacred kiddush cup full of wine or grape juice, and a challah cover to honor the special bread.” At each point of use on this Friday night, young Sadie asks her grandmother to tell her the history behind each item. A melodious refrain in the text has Sadie envisioning her ancestors after Nana relates each of the three stories and ably ties the past to the present for the reader. After Sadie hears all of these stories, she tells her own Shabbat story which includes the three aforementioned objects as well as a Star of David pendant which Sadie has gifted to Nana. Eventually, the whole book comes full circle with Sadie as a grandmother herself telling stories to her grandchildren. Drawing on inspiration from the artistic style of Marc Chagall, as described in a note at the end of the book, Goldberg’s warm, soft and imaginative illustrations complement the story arc beautifully, in portraying the different characters and settings, from shtetl life to contemporary times, as Nana relates the events behind each object and how it came to be in her possession.

Based on the author’s family stories, Sadie’s Shabbat Stories could easily be used as a springboard in classrooms and homes for discussions about Judaic objects found in the home, extending even beyond Shabbat to other items such as a family’s Hanukkah menorah or Passover seder plate. Older readers may also be encouraged to write their own stories about the backgrounds of such items leading to individualized, personal stories. With a pronunciation guide to the five Hebrew words that are used in the book - Shabbat, Challah, Kiddush, Shalom and HaMotzi - this book could also be enjoyed by those unfamiliar with Shabbat and / or Hebrew. All in all, this book is a gentle read about Shabbat and will instill pride in children in association with their family’s rituals performed on this holy day. 

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Reviewer Freidele Galya Soban Biniashvili is the author of several books for children including THE MYSTERY OF THE LOST WATCH, I LOVE MATZAH, THERE’S A REASON WHY!, and GOLDIE AND THE GUESTS. She lives in Toronto, Canada with her husband, a children’s book illustrator, and their team of future writers and illustrators. (Bio illustration courtesy of Michael Biniashvili.)