Review: The Stars Will Be My Nightlight

The Stars Will Be My Nightlight: A Sukkot Story

by Jen Halpern, illustrated by Chiara Fedele

Kar-Ben Publishing (imprint of Lerner Publishing Group), 2022

Category: Picture Books
Reviewer: Dena Bach

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This fine bedtime story by educator and first-time author Jen Halpern begins with a mother and her young son talking about the meaning of the holiday of Sukkot as they make decorations for their sukkah. After the boy convinces his reluctant mother to spend the night in the sukkah, Halpern uses the tradition of saying the Sh’ma prayer before bedtime to add a spiritual side to the narrative. While the narrative centers on the relationship between mother and son, the history and traditions of Sukkot are deftly explained through the words and pictures, and in the back matter.

Adding a mystical quality to the narrative are Chiara Fedele’s illustrations, suffused with so many different kinds of light, from the setting and rising sun, to the electric lights in the sukkah, to the fireflies and stars as night falls.

The positive, accurate content about the holiday of Sukkot and about the Sh’ma prayer qualifies the book for the Sydney Taylor Book Award. The calming narrative and the atmospheric illustrations make the book valuable in school, library and home settings.

Ed. Note: This book was included in the Association of Jewish Libraries' Fall 2022 Holiday Highlights list for the best Jewish holiday books for children of the fall 2022 publishing season.
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Reviewer Dena Bach has a BA in Fine Arts from Brandeis University, a BFA in Illustration from the Massachusetts College of Art and Design and an MA/MFA in Children’s Literature and Writing for Children from Simmons University. She has worked as an artist, a bookstore clerk, and a teacher of two to fifteen-year-olds. She is comfortable only when there is a large mountain of children’s books on her bedside table.