Review: A Donut in Time

A Donut in Time: A Hanukkah Story

by Elana Rubinstein, illustrated by Jennifer Naalchigar

Apples & Honey Press (imprint of Behrman House), 2022

Category: Middle Grade
Reviewer: Merle Eisman Carrus

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In A Donut in Time, Saralee helps out in her Zayde's restaurant, Siegel House. Noses play a very important role when Jewish holiday meals are involved. Saralee knows very well how important it is to distinguish the different smells when you work in a restaurant kitchen. Especially for Hanukkah, there are all the delicious fried foods with very distinctive smells.Everyone in the Siegel family joins in to get ready for customers on the first night of Hanukkah. They are cooking latkes and sufganiyot. This year they are going to use Saralee's original recipe for peanut butter and jelly donuts. 

Saralee has an unusual talent, a super nose, which Zadie says she inherited from her great grandmother, Golda or Gigi. Saralee has always felt unusual because of her extraordinary ability to smell individual ingredients in foods. She wishes she had been able to meet her grandmother. Through the magic of time travel, Saralee visits Gigi as a young girl when she is learning how to put her special super nose to its best advantage. Saralee bakes with Gigi and sees the many obstacles standing in Gigi's way as she tries to start her own business. Saralee travels back in time to give Gigi the encouragement she needs to keep trying and stand up for herself through the challenges. Just like the Maccabees did in ancient history, Saralee will help Gigi achieve her goals. At a time in history when women were not easily accepted as businesswomen and everyone tries to discourage Gigi from selling her donuts, Saralee works to motivate her to stand up for her aspirations.
There are a plethora of books written for young readers about the holiday of Hanukkah, telling the story of the bravery of the Maccabees fighting against the Syrian army for freedom of the Jewish people. A Donut in Time refers to the Hanukkah history, explaining how a small heroic group is able to beat a large strong foe. This book uses this well known story comparing it to a different time period. The story of Saralee and her great grandmother, Gigi share all the elements of the holiday of Hanukkah. This is an entertaining tale, and readers will enjoy reading to see how the Maccabee story can have modern day connections.

The illustrations by Jennifer Naalchigar are delightful drawings that complement the storyline of this short, easy chapter book. This is the third in a series of books about Saralee and her culinary adventures. The descriptions of the donuts will make the reader hungry, but never fear, there is a recipe at the end of the book for Gigi's Hanukkah Donuts.

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Reviewer Merle Eisman Carrus Resides in New Hampshire and writes book reviews for the NH Jewish Reporter newspaper. She is a graduate of Emerson College and received her Masters of Jewish Studies from Hebrew College. Merle is the National President of the Brandeis National Committee and co-chair of Women's League Reads. She leads books discussion groups and author interviews. She blogs her book reviews at