After moving to a town in the Old West, a young, white Jewish boy and his parents find celebrating Shabbat to be a lonely tradition.
On the western frontier, Papa spends the week with his boy making his homestead ready for planting while Mama takes care of their adobe house. But on Friday, regular work is suspended to make ready for Shabbat. After lighting candles and blessing wine and challah, the family feels unsettled. “Too much soup,” says Mama. “Not enough family.” In the city back East there were always aunts, uncles, and cousins with whom to share a Shabbat meal. Reminiscing about the large, weekly family gatherings gives the boy the idea to invite their new friends and neighbors for some good old-fashioned chicken soup, thus making the next Shabbat a more joyous, communal affair. Bietz uses an oral storytelling style with repetitive phrasing to introduce the arrival of Shabbat, enfolding both details of the hardworking lives of homesteaders with Jewish cultural details. Clean lines and muted colors on a textured background illustrate a late-19th-century Western landscape and its mostly white residents (blacksmith Ricardo and his nephew, both Latino, are notable exceptions). Framed portrait drawings in gray tones portray flashbacks of the family’s much-missed relatives and are superimposed collage-style on several scenes.
Welcoming guests and even strangers to the dinner table is part of the Shabbat ritual, and it’s celebrated nicely here. (author’s note) (Picture book. 5-9)