Review: Not So Fast, Max: A Rosh Hashanah Visit With Grandma

Not So Fast, Max: A Rosh Hashanah Visit with Grandma

by Annette Schottenfeld, illustrated by Jennifer Kirkham

Kalaniot Books (imprint of Endless Mountain)

Category: Picture Books
Reviewer: Gigi Perlman Pagliarulo

Family, Jewish traditions, and joyfully celebrating the holiday of Rosh Hashanah center this familiar-seeming tale. Max and his sister Emily are spending the day with Savta, their grandmother visiting from Israel. With the promise of making caramel apples to welcome in a sweet new year, hasty Max is impatient to get started, but Savta has a day of apple picking and orchard frolicking planned as well. Grumpy Max needs to be coaxed into enjoyment, but as the trio picks apples, plays, and tells stories together, he finally comes around to having fun, and even helps create a new Rosh Hashanah family tradition—caramel apples on the first day of the holiday, and apple cake on the second. 
The writing and illustration styles are straightforward and accessible. Max’s reluctance to relinquish his sour mood will ring true to kids and their parents and caregivers, as will his turnaround when shown love, patience and a chance to take ownership. The artwork features a fall color palette that compliments the theme and content, and bold, squiggly lines add a sense of dynamism to the somewhat static scenes in the orchard. Back matter includes information on celebrating Rosh Hashanah, a glossary of Hebrew terms used in the text, and recipes for “Savta’s Apple Cake” and “Max’s Caramel Apples.”

This book shows plenty of positive, authentic, and accurate Jewish religious and cultural content, and is appropriate for the intended grade level for which it was written. While not a standout title, it is uncomplicated and easy to understand and relate to.

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Reviewer Gigi Perlman Pagliarulo is a Children's Librarian. She is especially interested in youth services, early literacy, and issues of diversity and diverse representation within children's literature and programming, has served on the steering committee of Colorado Libraries for Early Literacy, and the CLEL Bell Picture Book Award Selection Committee.