When heavy snow falls, thoughtful Monty Nudelman get shovelling and clears his neighbours’ paths. But just as he finishes, his back gives way. He has to miss Saturday-morning synagogue — but all the people he has helped want to show him some kindness in return and all have the same idea — to bring him a container of cholent. Not only is Michael Herman’s The Cholent Brigade (Kar Ben, £5.99) a heartwarming story about one good deed deserving another, it also portrays, through Sharon Harmer’s illustrations, a diverse Jewish population. Age three to seven.
Introduce young readers to Chelm, the traditional village of fools, with Way Too Many Latkes, a Hanukkah in Chelm by Linda Glaser (appetisingly illustrated by Aleksandar Zolotic, Kar-Ben, £6.50). Faigel is making latkes but she cannot remember the recipe. Some careless advice from the rabbi leads her to use every potato, egg and onion she possesses — resulting in a mountain of latkes and a puzzle about how to eat them all up. The joke in this story is built up by repeated fool’s errands, as Faigel sends her husband for advice one ingredient at a time. Children up to age nine will enjoy the escalating latke complications.
Harry Gruber is playing the lead role in his school’s production and he hopes by doing so to warm the work-obsessed heart of his father, Ray — if he can keep him out of the office for the length of the performance. In the audience is Harry’s disabled sister, Eva, a counterpart to Tiny Tim in the play.
Portions of the script are intercut with the story of Ray, who sneaks out to go to work and confronts three ghosts from his own life.
Despite the child appeal of Tony Ross’s illustrations and the book’s uncomplicated language, the narrative structure and the unhappy-family content make the story quite a demanding read, perhaps more suitable for age 11 to 14 than for younger readers.
Towards the end of the story, she enthusiastically welcomes an adopted brother, so the book would particularly suit families wanting to introduce this idea to young children. Age three to eight, with drawings by the author.
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