Review: Bring Back the Babka

Bring Back the Babka!

by Marilyn Wolpin, illustrated by Madison Safer

Barefoot Books, 2023

Category: Picture Books
Reviewer: Rebecca Greer

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Sammy and Sol go on a mission to help their mother find her missing “just-baked babka” for Shabbat. As they search the neighborhood with their dog Mazel, they meet kindly neighbors who offer samples of their own homemade food. The boys get offered leftovers to take home and they invite everyone to their house for dinner. Told with repetition that makes it easy for kids to follow along and know what's coming next, the boys explain what they’re looking for and how it’s their favorite kind of babka, “cinnamon” with “golden-brown crust and sugar-sweet filling.” Simple artwork brings a rustic, homey feeling to the book, inviting readers in with scenes of cooking and walking around a neighborhood. At the end is a recipe for “Mama’s Missing Babka” with detailed step-by-step directions. Additionally, there is a pronunciation guide and descriptions of all the Shabbat food. Jewish characters are depicted in a variety of skin tones, and they represent Ashkenazi, Sephardic, and Mizrahi food traditions, as described in the end note. The ultimate goal of the story is not to find the babka, but instead to depict a community that comes together for support and help.

The book feels authentic and appropriate for picture book readers. It represents a diverse Jewish community which can be found anywhere. The Jewish content is integral, as it is part of getting ready for Shabbat dinner. It is a book that would also be understood by non-Jewish readers and may explain some Jewish traditions and understanding of the Jewish experience. 

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Reviewer Becky Greer is the School Library Media Specialist for Manatee School for the Arts, an arts-infused charter school. She was previously a youth public librarian before starting the next phase in her career. Becky has written articles for Florida Libraries Journal, reviews for School Library Journal, and wrote several chapters of “Think Big!: A Resource Manual for Teen Library Programs That Attract Large Audiences” by Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.