We love the PJ Library books Sadie and the Big Mountain and Sadie’s Snowy Tu B’Shevat because they weave Jewish holidays and traditions into stories that children enjoy. This month’s selection for 3- and 4-year-olds, Sadie and the Almost Marvelous Menorah, is no exception. Of course, here in the UK we spell marvellous with two Ls rather than one, and some of us say hanukkiah instead of menorah. But when it comes to Jewish stories and values, small differences aren’t important -- PJ Library subscribers are on the same page no matter what country we live in or what language we speak.
The children at Sadie’s preschool are excited because Hanukkah is coming, and even more excited that they are going to make their own menorahs! They roll the clay, carefully poke holes for the candles and paint their creations. But when Sadie’s mother comes to collect her, the little girl is so excited to show her mum the product of her hard work that she trips and drops the hanukkiah, which shatters into little pieces. Luckily, the shammash holder remains intact, and Sadie’s mother has an excellent idea that gives the shammash holder a key role in their family’s Hanukkah celebrations.
The illustrations of the classroom depict a range of religious backgrounds, with some kids wearing a kippah, and others bareheaded. The children learn the brachot in the classroom, and they’re included at the back of the book in Hebrew, transliterated Hebrew and English translation for families who want to learn them at home. Young readers see the real effort Sadie puts into making the hanukkiah, which makes the crisis more dramatic when it comes. And what preschooler can’t relate to Sadie’s experience of an upsetting accidental breakage? But Sadie and her mum find a creative solution to the problem, so kids will learn that sometimes something that seems bad at the time turns out just fine in the end (gam zu l’tovah -- this too is for the good). What a great lesson, not just for Hanukkah, but for life.
November 18, 2019