Review: Rosh Hashanah with Uncle Max

Rosh Hashanah with Uncle Max

written & illustrated by Varda Livney

Kar-Ben (imprint of Lerner Publishing Group)

Category: Picture Books
Reviewer: Lila Spitz

Rosh Hashanah with Uncle Max written and illustrated by Varda Livney is perfect for children in PreK. The board book includes relevant Hebrew vocabulary and dollops of humor to tell the story of a mixed-race family gathering on the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah. Illustrations depict the family of color reciting blessings over candles and wine, eating traditional foods (dates, pomegranates, honey, apples), listening to the sound of the shofar at temple, and celebrating the birthday of the world with songs and sweets.  
To draw attention to Uncle Max throughout the story, the illustrator dresses him in an eye-catching flowered shirt which contrasts well with the plain pastel shirts of his family members. The juxtaposition of color and the use of pattern in the illustrations is developmentally appropriate for the intended readers.  

The book includes more than ten Hebrew words and phrases that are transliterated from Hebrew to English and defined by the author. These traditional holiday vocabulary terms include Davash (honey), Shofar (ram’s horn), and Shanah Tova (Have a good year). A humorous incident occurs in the story when Uncle Max almost plunges his glasses in honey thinking that it will “make the whole world look sweet.”
The most memorable section of the book is a two-page spread where the illustrator uses onomatopoeia to communicate sound visually. In the picture, the length of each musical note directly correlates to the length of the onomatopoeia. For example, “BAAAAA, BAA BAA.”
Rosh Hashanah with Uncle Max by Varda Livney is definitely eligible for the Sydney Taylor Book Award. It is an authentic, entertaining, and educational holiday story appropriate for children ages one to four. 

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Lila Spitz is a native of Washington, D.C. She received her M.L.I.S. in October of 2019 and currently works in a federal library as a government contractor. When she is not reviewing or reading children’s books she enjoys meeting up with friends and playing tennis.