Review: Joyful Song

Joyful Song: A Naming Story

by Lesléa Newman, illustrated by Susan Gal

Levine Querido, 2024

Category: Picture Books
Reviewer: Ann Koffsky

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In this sweet story, Zachary walks to synagogue with his two moms (one light skinned and one dark skinned) for a very special occasion: to name his baby sister. Along the way, he meets up with an assortment of multi-ethnic neighbors, who ask him what she is called. But since she hasn’t been named yet, Zachary and his moms instead suggest some delightful, (and some very Jewish!) nicknames for her in the interim: Little Babka, Shayna Maideleh, and Snuggle Bunny.

Finally, they arrive at the synagogue. The naming ceremony begins, and we get to learn the baby’s real name: “Aliza Shira”, the Hebrew whose meaning echoes the title of the book, “joyful song”.

The illustrations by Susan Gal have rich details and vibrant colors throughout the story that seem to echo the stained-glass windows of the synagogue. The emotions Gal captures—especially the expression and natural gesture of Zachary holding the baby in his arms—are artful and beautiful.

Overall, it’s a quiet story that celebrates a joyful Jewish experience, and makes the reader smile at its tenderness.

The Jewish content in this book includes a depiction of a synagogue, Jewish phrases and values. It takes place in a progressive Jewish community, and depicts it authentically, and with great warmth.

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Ann Diament Koffsky is the award-winning author/ illustrator of more than 40 books for children. Her newest book, PING PONG SHABBAT (Little Bee) tells the story of ping pong champion Estee Ackerman. You can see more about her at and on instagram @annkoffsky.