Review: Bubbie & Rivka’s Best-Ever Challah (So Far!)

Bubbie & Rivka's Best-Ever Challah (So Far!)

written and illustrated by Sarah Lynne Reul

Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2022

Category: Picture Books
Reviewer: Freidele Galya Soban Biniashvili
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Anyone who has ever attempted to bake home-made challah and received undesirable results, will appreciate and relate to author / illustrator Sarah Lynne Reul’s latest title, Bubbie & Rivka’s Best-Ever Challah (So Far!). Bubbie is “not the cooking kind of Bubbie . . . she’s more of a get-takeout-or-microwave-something kind of Bubbie” but she and her granddaughter Rivka join forces to establish a “new tradition to make challah every Friday.” The humorous, expressive illustrations are warm with a traditional feel to them, striking a complimentary balance to Rivka’s modern Bubbie. Readers will root for them to succeed, especially as they demonstrate a "growth mindset" and transform into superheroes determined to make the perfect challah. A detailed challah recipe rounds out the book.

Jewish content is conveyed through the title characters’ names in Yiddish (Bubbie) and Hebrew (Rivka), although the grandfather in the story is referred to as Grandpa. We also see the Yiddish words bubkis and oy gevalt in the text. Hamantashen appear in an illustration and are labelled as such. Interestingly enough, though, there is no reference or connection made in the text or illustrations to Shabbat, the time when the braided challah portrayed here is traditionally eaten. Having said that, this book may appeal to a wide audience as simply a sweet story about a grandparent and grandchild since the same story could just as easily have been told through the lens of any ethnic group preparing a significant cultural signature dish. Therefore, it is very easy to visualize this book being used in classrooms as a springboard for discussions around bonding with a grandparent through a shared activity, a much welcome practice.

Illustration Editor Dena Bach adds: Sarah Lynne Reul uses color and layout to emphasize the importance of the warm intergenerational relationship between Rivka and her Bubbie, portraying them with warmer reds, oranges, and yellows amid the cooler and paler colors of the background and the other characters. Bubbie and Rivka are also drawn either facing each other or as one unit, emphasizing their connection.

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Reviewer Freidele Galya Soban Biniashvili is the author of JUST ONE MATCH, MYSTERY AT NIGHTLIGHT RESORT, THE MYSTERY OF THE LOST WATCH and other titles. Her picture book MENDEL AND THE PENCIL and chapter book SHLOIMIE’S LETTER (a PJ Our Way selection), were both illustrated by her husband. Born and raised in Toronto, she still resides there with her family. (Bio illustration courtesy of Michael Biniashvili.)