Review: The Moving Box Sukkah

The Moving Box Sukkah

by Leah Rachel Berkowitz, illustrated by Sharon Vargo

Apples & Honey Press (imprint of Behrman House Publishing), 2023

Category: Picture Books
Reviewer: Jeff Gottesfeld

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A few years ago on the campus of my synagogue, Adat Ari El in North Hollywood CA, Rabbi Jessica Yarkin taught a super cool religious school autumn lesson by using her car as the foundation for a sukkah. Two open doors plus the main car body plus some pine fronds, and there's room for a chair underneath. Et voilà! In The Moving Box Sukkah, author Berkowitz and illustrator Vargo do the same, in a poignant mother-son story of moving, displacement, adaptation, improvisation, and reconnection to both the distant and immediate past. The narrator is a boy whose mom has just moved him to the city from a place where sukkah-building was not hard. No dad in the picture, literally or figuratively. Here in the city, the boy longs for his transitional object from the past, a blue blanket, somehow missing in the unpacking. He worries about how one might build a sukkah in the city. Mom cleverly teaches a little Talmud in the most accessible way about sukkahs, and some gentle history of Jewish displacement and adaptation. The title is the solution, for a book that is finally as much about resilience as anything else. It's not a short narrative, but the text is supported well by Vargo's accessible art, including some clever spot drawings. And yes, the missing blanket ends up playing a bershert role in the story.

It's all Jewish content, from the smallest to the largest themes. I'm going to guess that the mother and son here are not Orthodox, since this sukkah is apparently built indoors and not on the roof of the building, and the boy has no kippah, but that's more a point of information than anything else. What's super good is the Talmud lesson -- the author provides the tractate reference in the afterword -- and how this story is placed in a larger context of a history of movement. Plus, non-Jewish readers will totally get what's going on here. Nicely done. 

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Reviewer Jeff Gottesfeld writes for page, stage, and screen. His other picture books are The Tree in the Courtyard (Knopf, 2016), illustrated by Peter McCarty, No Steps Behind (Creston, 2020), illustrated by Shiella Witanto, Twenty-One Steps: Guarding the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier (Candlewick Press, 2021), illustrated by Matt Tavares, The Christmas Mitzvah (Creston, 2021), illustrated by Michelle Agatha, and Food for Hope (Creston, 2023, illustrated by Michelle Agatha. Upcoming is We All Serve for Candlewick (2026, illustrated by TeMika Grooms), about the special lives and challenges of military kids. Born in Manhattan and raised in Teaneck, New Jersey, he currently lives in Los Angeles. Visit him at