Review: Do Not Eat This Book! Fun With Jewish Foods & Festivals

Do Not Eat This Book! Fun with Jewish Foods & Festivals

by Beth Kander, illustrated by Mike Moran

Sleeping Bear Press, 2023

Category: Picture Books
Reviewer: Freidele Galya Soban Biniashvili

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Do Not Eat This Book! is the latest entry to explore the foods associated with Jewish holidays. This rhyming picture book opens with Tu B’Shevat, followed by Purim. It then focuses on Shabbat, which was a thoughtful inclusion even though it is not a once-a-year festival but a weekly celebration. Passover, Chanukah and Shavuot are introduced last, by being grouped together in one verse. That the holidays are not presented in chronological order according to the Jewish calendar will not detract from children’s enjoyment of chanting the lively refrain, “but please remember, bubbeleh: DO NOT EAT THIS BOOK!” As well, it is unlikely that the young target audience will notice the absence of any mention of the festivals that occur in the month of Tishrei, namely Rosh Hashanah, Sukkot, Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah. The cartoon illustrations are colorful and cheery, keeping in tone with the fun mood of the book. They are also very inclusive. Characters have a wide range of skin tones and some of the males are wearing kippot. One child is also depicted in a wheelchair.

Back matter includes an alphabetized glossary, Author’s Note and recipes for each of the festivals mentioned in the book, along with a brief introduction. The recipes which were chosen make the book shine. For instance, Shabbat is paired with the dairy Israeli Shakshuka instead of a more well-known Sabbath menu item. Likewise for Shavuot, which presents a kid-friendly Ice Cream in a Bag recipe rather than the traditional blintzes, which are geared more towards the adult palate.

The book lends itself to interesting discussions in a multi-ethnic classroom setting. For example, the text refers to “Passover seder treats” which children, who have experienced a seder, might be able to expand on. In the same vein, the glossary states that on Shavuot we eat a lot of delicious dairy (or dairy-like) foods without giving the reason for this custom, so this may invite readers to study this further.

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Reviewer Freidele Galya Soban Biniashvili is the author of the novel JUST ONE MATCH, and two middle-grade mysteries, MYSTERY AT NIGHTLIGHT RESORT and THE MYSTERY OF THE LOST WATCH. Her picture book MENDEL AND THE PENCIL and chapter book SHLOIMIE’S LETTER (a PJ Our Way selection), were both illustrated by her husband. A second-generation Canadian, she resides with her family in Toronto, where she works as a librarian in all-boys elementary school. (Bio illustration courtesy of Michael Biniashvili.)