Review: This Is My Shabbat


This Is My Shabbat

by Chris Barash, illustrated by Aviel Basil

Green Bean Books, 2023

Category: Picture Books
Reviewer: Shirley Vernick

This warmhearted picture book follows a boy and his family on a Saturday as they celebrate Shabbat together–synagogue services, a picnic with extended family, and an impromptu meetup with neighbors. The boy, who happens to be blind, experiences the Sabbath using his other senses, especially hearing. (The text never says that the child is blind, but the outdoor scenes show him using a white cane and wearing sunglasses.) The story ends with the family drifting off to sleep in anticipation of Havdalah, making it a great choice for bedtime reading. The repeated refrain, "This is my Shabbat" adds a lullaby-like quality to the tale. The story is written in both printed text and Braille. The illustrations' bright color palette and detailed panoramas will absorb readers and amplify the joyful atmosphere surrounding Shabbat. The boy's friend, Sarina, has brown skin, bringing an additional element of diversity to the cast.

This is My Shabbat is a robust contender for the Sydney Taylor Book Award. It celebrates Jewish traditions and embraces the Jewish emphases on family, community and inclusion. The story also serves as an invitation for children to talk about what their own Shabbat looks like – or sounds, tastes, smells or feels like. Highly recommended for the early picture book set.

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Reviewer Shirley Reva Vernick is a middle-grade and young-adult novelist. Shirley’s debut novel, The Blood Lie, is a Sydney Taylor honor book and the winner of the Simon Wiesenthal Once Upon A World Book Award. Her latest Jewish-themed MG novel, RIPPED AWAY, was released by Regal House Publishing on February 8, 2022.