Review: Benjy's Messy Room

Benjy's Messy Room

by Barbara Diamond Goldin, illustrated by Rita Tan

Apples & Honey Press (imprint of Behrman House), 2024

Category: Picture Books
Reviewer: Jacqueline Jules

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Benjy is a pack rat and his bedroom is littered with toys. This is not a good combination the day before Passover. His big sister, Naomi, warns him that their parents expect a clean room before the Passover hunt for breadcrumbs that night. Hoping for the fun of last year, when he was allowed to lead the hametz hunt with a candle, Benjy decides to tackle the big job of cleaning his room. When his little sister, Shira, interrupts his resolve with a plea to play, Benjy comes up with a game to practice for the hametz hunt. He hides balls of paper around his room for Shira to find. In the process, big brother and little sister clean up a messy bedroom just before dark.

With colorful, expressive illustrations, Benjy’s Messy Room is a joyous story of preparing for Passover. Benjy teaches his younger sister the blessings for the hametz hunt and explains the ritual during the course of their game. The family dynamics are warm and positive with a last spread showing the mother hugging three children and a dog. Back matter provides more information on the nighttime ritual search for leaven as well as some thoughts on how to proceed when chores feel overwhelming. Benjy’s Messy Room puts a delightful spin on cleaning for Passover. It should be considered for the Sydney Taylor Book Award.

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Reviewer Jacqueline Jules is the author of fifty books for young readers including
The Porridge-Pot Goblin, The Hardest Word, Picnic at Camp Shalom, Drop by Drop: A Story of Rabbi Akiva, Light the Menorah: A Hanukkah Handbook, and Never Say a Mean Word Again. Her middle grade verse novel, My Name is Hamburger, is a PJ Our Way selection. And her picture book, Moses and the Runaway Lamb, was a Junior Library Guild selection. She lives on Long Island and enjoys talking long walks along the water. Visit her online