Review: A Book About Bupkes

A Book About Bupkes

by Leslie Kimmelman, illustrated by Roxana de Rond

Kar-Ben Publishing, 2023

Category: Picture Books
Reviewer: Rebecca Klempner

Buy at

Leslie Kimmelman begins A Book About Bupkes with a brief explanation of the Yiddish word "bupkes." However, rather than delving into the usually negative connotation of this term (meaning "nothing"), she begs us to ask the question, "Where did everything go?"

Sometimes, a place or a container is empty because their contents were relocated to a place where they can serve an important purpose. A bowl of chicken soup, for example, empties as its contents fill the belly of a patient.

In addition to this heart-warming message, Kimmelman's joyful tone and delightful diction won me over. There are a couple of pages that are so well-written, I just sat with them a moment to enjoy the language.

Roxana de Rond's playful art charmed me and suited the goofy tone of the book. I appreciated that the illustrations reflected a diverse community, both in ethnicities and in abilities. However, I found the book design somewhat dated. I'm hoping readers get past the unappealing cover to reach the goodness inside. I hope this funny and meaningful book reaches many readers.

While appropriate to both religious and secular audiences, A Book About Bupkes leans into the meaning of a Yiddish word, which centers it on the Ashkenazi experience. The text represents Jewish values familiar to all Jews, for example: bikur cholim (tending the sick), nekiyut (cleanliness), chessed (lovingkindness). However, these values aren't connected explicitly to Judaism in the text. I can see non-Jewish readers enjoying the book a lot.

Are you interested in reviewing books for The Sydney Taylor Shmooze? Click here!

Reviewer Rebecca Klempner is the author of A Dozen Daisies for Raizy, Adina at Her Best, and Glixman in a Fix. Additionally, she's written over 100 stories, articles, reviews, and personal essays for magazines and websites. Her latest book, How to Welcome an Alien, is came out August 1, 2023. She is also an editor specializing in kidlit.