Review: Oh, How I Wish

Oh, How I Wish

by Sara Blau, illustrated by Yehudit Binder

Hachai, 2023

Category: Picture Books
Reviewer: Rinat Hadad Siegel

Many children can’t wait to do what they are passionate about. For some, it could be singing, others drawing, and a few are passionate about baking. In this lovely and easy-to-follow picture book, children find ways to elevate their everyday actions and hobbies into Mitzvot (good deeds). 
This idea is a well-known Jewish concept that goes hand in hand with Tikkun Olam.This concept is layered on every page of this book. How can a child as an individual make a difference in this world and still be true to their passion? A child can draw for their own will and entertainment but when they draw to make a get-well card for someone who is sick, their action of drawing and what they create takes on a spiritual layer.

The language is lyrical and clear, intended for a very young audience. There is a simple repetition as the reader is introduced to different examples of children’s actions, starting with the sentence, “Oh, How I wish I could”…sing, dance, bake, draw, etc.. and ends with, “It’s a precious Mitzvah for Hashem” (Referral to God).
The illustrations are colorful and authentic to an Orthodox Jewish family. The characters are white skin-toned and portray an Ashkenazi family. Some illustrations showcase daily Israeli features such as a sunny-side-up egg and Israeli salad.

This book follows the Sydney Taylor Book Award criteria. It has a strong Jewish presence in every spread, though the overall message is universal. I would add that some readers might find the book a bit didactic, as the reader is told what to do in each example displayed in the story. A note to the reader at the end explains the potential for mitzvot in our surroundings and then elaborates on the potential for mitzvot and our connection to Hashem in every action we make. The reader can find a small glossary at the beginning of the book that clarifies some of the Hebrew and Jewish terms. I admire the way Sara was able to take such a high Jewish concept and translate it to simple different actions that children can do every day.
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Reviewer Rinat Hadad Siegel was born in Israel to a Jewish Mizrahi family. She is a former educator and resource teacher. Rinat received her Bachelor's Degree from the Ben Gurion University of the Negev and holds a Master's Degree in Education from the American Jewish University in Los Angeles. Rinat spends her days researching and writing stories about Mizrahi and Middle Eastern Jewry.