Review: The Surprise in the Desk

The Surprise in the Desk by Carol Ungar, illustrated by Mira Simon

Category: Picture Books
Reviewer: Freidele Galya Soban Biniashvili 

What would you do if you bought a second-hand piece of furniture and when you brought it home, you found within it a secret stash of $98,000? This was the question I posed to my family after reading The Surprise in the Desk. Based on true events, this story is about Rabbi Noach Muroff who buys a used desk and discovers close to $100,000 hidden inside it. Told in simple prose without any hint of preachiness, author Carol Ungar delivers a thought provoking story that will teach children a valuable lesson about honesty and doing the right thing, even when the temptation to do otherwise might be great. Accompanied by Mira Simon’s realistic illustrations, children will be able to follow along with the text and answer the question, “So, what do you think he did?” which is posed to the reader at various points throughout the story. A simple internet search gives more details about this inspiring story for any readers who are curious to learn more about the events as they unfolded.

The Surprise in the Desk deals with a most basic and fundamental principle of Judaism, namely honesty. The book will enable children to discuss what they would do if faced with such a situation where they may find something of great value, which they know doesn’t belong to them. Conversely, children can discuss how they would feel if they lost something. With open dialogue and an exchange of ideas, as I had with my family when I asked them the opening question of this review, everyone can learn something from this picture book. As the text of the story says after Rabbi Muroff’s story was revealed to the media, “People everywhere were thinking and talking about what it means to be honest and to do what’s right. It was a powerful lesson.”

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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.)