Review: Challah!


written & illustrated by Varda Livney

PJ Publishing, 2023

Category: Picture Books
Reviewer: Heidi Rabinowitz

Louis, a toddler bunny rabbit, utters his first word ever at Shabbat dinner. It's "challah," of course! Throughout the rest of the week, Louis proudly uses his new word to describe puffy objects from clouds to trees to sheep. When Shabbat comes around again, he surprises and delights his parents by taking one look at the challah and saying his second new word: "Shabbat!"

Young children will enjoy chiming in with the "challah" refrain and identifying the various puffy objects. The reinforcement of the days of the week (Jewishly listed from one Friday to the next) is another point of educational interest for the preschool set. Gentle line drawings in pastel colors show a cheerful anthropomorphic family of blue, pink, and green rabbits.

Notes on the back cover of the board book provide more information about Shabbat and challah, including links to the PJ Library website. The backmatter acknowledges that the challah portrayed in the book is not universal: "In many Jewish communities around the world, the bread used in Shabbat rituals can look and taste quite different - flatter, crispier, even spicy - but the blessing said over it remains the same."

Jewish books simple enough for the very youngest children are rare, so this sweet and funny little book will be very welcome in Jewish homes and preschools.

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Reviewer Heidi Rabinowitz is one of the co-admins of The Sydney Taylor Shmooze, along with Susan Kusel and Chava Pinchuck. She hosts The Book of Life Podcast: A Show About Jewish Kidlit (Mostly) at Heidi is Past President of the Association of Jewish Libraries, and Library Director at Congregation B'nai Israel of Boca Raton, Florida.