Review: I Can Wait

I Can Wait

written & illustrated by Rikki Benenfeld

Hachai, 2023

Category: Picture Books
Reviewer: Chava Pinchuck

Buy at Hachai

A brother and sister learn to wait as they go through their weekly activities. Rhyming couplets with easy words narrate the story. On Sunday, the boy wakes up early, but refrains from drumming until everyone else wakes up. The kids wait for rides to school, wait for a doctor's appointment, wait for Mommy to finish talking on the phone, wait for their father to bring their pizza order, and wait to cross the street. On Friday, the children wait for the challah dough to rise and wait for a taste of chocolate cake. Then they don their special clothes that they have waited to wear. The book ends with the ultimate wait - "For Moshiach to come quickly B'mheira, b'yomeinu!" Rikki Benefeld writes and illustrates "The Toddler Experience Series" for Hachai, and the consistent style of illustration throughout the series will be immediately recognizable to fans. The girls wear dresses that cover elbows and knees, and the boy is wearing a kippah, and his tzitzit are prominent. The father (Tatty) wears a black hat wherever he goes. A short glossary is included in the front of the book.

There is definitely Jewish content in this book, and it is integral to the message of waiting. Sister cannot have a dairy yogurt after eating meatballs because the family abides by laws of kashrus. The siblings wait to wear a special clothes until Shabbos. The children in school wait to speak after washing their hands until they have said the blessing over the bread. It is not a book that non-Jewish readers will be able to relate to in terms of Jewish ritual, and many very young Jewish readers may not relate to the concept of waiting for the Messiah. While anticipating the arrival of Moshiach is an important principle of Judaism, it is not clear whether the waiting is for developing self-control or patience, both important character traits, but ones that can be particularly challenging for the targeted readers (ages 0-3). 

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Reviewer Chava (Kathe) Pinchuck worked in private and public libraries in New Jersey before making aliyah in 2012. In Israel she has worked as a cataloger of legal documents and a cybrarian for a distance learning institution. She is a past chair of the Sydney Taylor Book Award Committee, past co-editor of the Children's and YA Book Reviews for AJL News and Reviews, and the current editor of the Jewish Values Finder, a database of Jewish children's books. [Ed. Note: Chava is one of the co-chairs of The Sydney Taylor Shmooze.]