Review: Help-a-Lot Shabbat

Help-a-Lot Shabbat

written and illustrated by Nancy Cote

Kar-Ben Publishing, 2022

Category: Picture Books
Reviewer: Mirele Kessous

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It’s a fairly common occurrence to find board books that are too advanced for actual babies. Either the text is too dense or the illustrations are too complicated. This is why Help-a-lot Shabbat is so delightful; it is the perfect read-aloud for children ages 0-3. There are charming, simple rhymes with charming, simple illustrations. Readers follow along as a pair of toddlers help their parents prepare for Shabbat–from shopping and cooking to cleaning and setting the table. Adorable animal friends make appearances on most pages, adding to the playful nature of the story. The friends and neighbors who come for Shabbat dinner are an especially diverse crew, including people who appear to be of African, Asian, and Indian descent. There even appears to be (possibly) a gay couple, which is a rare for Jewish picture books. So if you’re looking for an introduction to Shabbat preparation and rituals for your little one, consider Help-a-lot Shabbat.

The content of this story is appropriate for the audience, as are the illustrations. The overall message is positive about Judaism, and there is a diverse cast of characters. It has just the right rhythm and words per page to keep the little guys engaged. This book is deserving for the Sydney Taylor Book Award.

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Reviewer Mirele Kessous is the Assistant Library Media Specialist at the Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School in Rockville, Maryland. She is a certified librarian with a specialty in children's/young adult library services and moonlights as an illustrator. She married an Israeli and has three small children.