Review: The Hedgehog Who Said Who Cares?

The Hedgehog Who Said Who Cares?

by Neri Aluma, illustrated by Amit Trainin

Kalaniot Books, 2024

Category: Picture Books
Reviewer: Cindy Rivka Marshall

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Author Neri Aluma has transposed a teaching story from the Talmud into a vibrant picture book that is relevant to challenges in our contemporary world. Hedgehog digs a burrow, smack in the middle of a road used by other animals. Rabbit and Mouse, stymied by the large pile of dirt blocking their way, wonder who is responsible. Meanwhile Hedgehog is oblivious and cozy in his new home. When Rabbit and Mouse confront him, Hedgehog snorts “Who cares?” But the next day, when a rainstorm causes the burrow to collapse into mud, Hedgehog needs help. Rabbit and Mouse come to his aid and help him dry off and get warm. Hedgehog apologizes and admits his wrongdoing. The book ends with Hedgehog helping others to plant a garden of flowers along the road.

This book was originally published in Hebrew and the translation does an admirable job of
delivering satisfying rhyming verse in English. The illustrations are wonderfully lively, with bright colors. Most effective are the facial expressions of the characters that convey a changing emotional range from self-satisfaction to dismay, anger, remorse and finally, joy.

Young readers will learn, along with Hedgehog, that because we share our physical world with others, we must be aware of the impact of our actions. The story will lead to important conversations about being considerate to neighbors and caring for the environment. Adults reading alongside children might make connections to the current housing crisis many regions are experiencing, and the need for people in towns and cities to be thoughtful about the environmental and social impact of construction projects. Children, especially those who have witnessed extreme weather events, will empathize with Hedgehog’s need for a safe home.

There is no explicit Jewish representation in this picture book, but the Author’s Note points to the story’s source in the Talmud. The Jewish values of community, caring and doing our part to help the world are integral to the story. The use of relatable animal characters will make this message accessible to Jewish and non-Jewish readers alike.

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Reviewer Cindy Rivka Marshall is a professional Jewish storyteller, intergenerational Jewish educator, story coach and picture book writer. Her recordings have won awards from Parent’s Choice, Storytelling World, and National Parenting Publications. She leads storytelling skills workshops and facilitates story sharing to build community and diversity awareness. Her business, Story Arc, aims to “reach, teach and change with stories.” Cindy lives in the Boston area and has twice been selected to participate in the PJ Library Summer Camp for Jewish Picture Book Writers.