Review: On Friday Afternoon: A Shabbat Celebration

On Friday Afternoon: A Shabbat Celebration

by Michal Babay, illustrated by Menahem Halberstadt

Charlesbridge, 2024

Category: Picture Books
Reviewer: Ann Koffsky

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With On Friday Afternoon, author Michal Babay and illustrator Menachem Halbertstadt have given us an upbeat and cheerful portrait of a family getting ready for Shabbat—specifically, Friday night dinner.

The main characters are a young girl, Leelee, and her dog Pickles. They giggle and race through the house making messes, cleaning up those messes (because Shabbat is coming) and then making still more chaos. Each encounter leads fluidly into the next: when they discover change under the couch, that leads to making a tzedkah box; finding a trombone while cleaning the bedroom leads them to marching in a musical parade. The structure reminded me of the If You Give a Mouse a Cookie series-- in the best of ways.

Halbertstadt’s illustrations are exuberant and joyful. Leelee’s slightly rumpled hair gives off oodles of personality, and there are plenty of funny details for kids to discover as they look at each spread.
The illustrations also successfully give the feeling that the story is taking place in a Jewish home, with details like a family menorah on a shelf, mezuzot on doorways and a piece of “shalom” artwork appearing in the background.

The book is positively and authentically Jewish, and meets Sydney Taylor Book Award guidelines. Both families and educators will welcome this cheerful addition to the Shabbat stories bookshelf.

Editor's Note: This book was included on the Association of Jewish Libraries' Spring 2024 Holiday Highlights list.

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Reviewer Ann D. Koffsky is the author and/or illustrator of many Jewish books for children, including the forthcoming
Ping Pong Shabbat from Little Bee Books. Her book Noah's Swimathon received a Sydney Taylor Notable designation from the Association of Jewish Libraries.