This picture book is entirely predictable, and that may be a good thing.
Monty Nudelman is the sort of neighbor everybody wants. He spends hours volunteering to shovel other people’s yards. The text is very eloquent: “He shoveled walkways, alleyways, steps and stoops.” He’s so kind that the story pretty much demands that something terrible will happen to him, and it does. His back seizes up with a “fiery pain.” And because this story isn’t even the slightest bit cynical, almost every reader will see the happy ending coming: the people at his synagogue all help to shovel his sidewalk, and they make sure he has food to eat on the Jewish Sabbath. Even more-than-a-bit-cynical readers may be moved to see a whole community working together, without needing to be asked. And the book is full of small delights, most of them involving cholent, the traditional Jewish stew Monty loves to eat. There’s a recipe at the end of the book and a colorful, illustrated scene that describes “cholent with short ribs and sweet potatoes, and even chili cholent.” Harmer’s pictures show that the Jewish community is refreshingly multiracial. There are no surprises here, but the acts of kindness don’t feel like a plot convention. They feel like a philosophy for life.
It’s touching to see a town where kindness is no surprise. (Picture book. 3-8)