Two energetic dogs romp through food-filled Jewish holidays.
Press’ debut children’s book gives young readers a tour of the Jewish holy days. Ollie and Taavi, the author's own dogs, lead the way. The puppies, dressed gamely in their yarmulkes, appear in family photos as they encounter the gifts, treats and rituals of the holidays, including hamantaschen with sweet jelly for Purim and colorful dreidels and menorahs for Hanukkah. Homebound snapshots illustrate the clever premise of the book. Using dogs as tour guides should keep small children engaged long enough to learn about the major and minor Jewish holidays and their tactile traditions, like Sukkot enclosures and Passover afikomen. Puppies saying “sorry” to each other on Yom Kippur? It’s here. Press is at her descriptive best in explaining Shabbat, evoking the anticipation and joy of the Sabbath: “So gather round the table, / with friends and family near, / and sing three blessings / we hold so very dear.” Sights, sounds and, most of all, delicious tastes cavort in the poems even more energetically than Ollie and Taavi—a child’s grape juice for Shabbat, honeyed apples for Rosh Hashana and crackling latkes for Hanukkah—though the spotty verse distracts from them and rarely has the cadence to sustain or cement the ideas they embody. Rhymes, though clearly sought, often fail to materialize. When they appear, they strain. The book celebrates Simchat Torah with the lines: “Today he helps me make a flag, / that will wave not lag.” Its Passover text says: “We walked and walked for years to come / and then found Palestine, the day had come.” These stumbles detract from the heartfelt feelings, obvious throughout, toward the traditions and the physical tokens of the holidays.
A book that works better as a primer on the Jewish holidays than as a keepsake.