Review: First Fruits: A Shavuot Story

First Fruits: A Shavuot Story

written & illustrated by Amalia Hoffman

PJ Publishing, 2024

Category: Picture Books
Reviewer: Mirele Kessous

Quality books about Shavuot for young children are hard to find, but here’s a contender. This is a board book for the very very young–no older than 3. Sparse text explains that early Israelites gathered the “First Fruits” or “Bikurim” in baskets on Shavuot but does not explain why. A note at the end where provides a longer explanation for parents, that will not sustain a toddler’s attention span.

The illustrations appears as though a young child has decorated the pages with cute little handprints and whimsical stick figures. Children will learn the names of the Seven Species and what they look like, although the term “Seven Species” is not used. There is also no mention of the Israelites receiving the Torah on Shavuot. Diversity takes front and center with this book, as the pictures of children depict all skin tones and abilities. Hoffman provides a direct, simple and cheery introduction to some aspects of this important holiday.

Jewish representation in this book is authentic. Some of the girls in the illustrations are wearing dresses but some are wearing pants, so that may be a deal-breaker for more Haredi readers. The text is simple enough for anyone to understand.
Editor's Note: This book was included on the Association of Jewish Libraries' Spring 2024 Holiday Highlights list.

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Reviewer Mirele Kessous is the Upper School Library Media Specialist at the Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School in Rockville, Maryland. She is a certified librarian with a specialty in children's/young adult library services and moonlights as an illustrator. She married an Israeli and has four young children.