A grandfather and his grandson become b’nai mitzvah together.
This picture book opens with an old man who has “only one regret.” An 82-year-old Holocaust survivor, he and his entire Polish village were sent to a concentration camp during World War II, where he was too busy fighting for survival to “begin the traditional yearlong training for his bar mitzvah, the Jewish coming-of-age ceremony that celebrates a boy becoming a man when he is thirteen.” The first few pages briefly describe that history as the soft illustrations show the old man getting into a car with his family and driving toward a warmly lit synagogue. The text explains the deep bond between grandfather and grandson and that the boy’s father “suggested that his father and his son be bar mitzvahed together.” Age and youth study together, learn together, and celebrate together, “combining remembrance of the past and the unfolding of the future, recognition of the unbroken chain.” While clearly heartfelt and sweet, this story does not work as a picture book or read-aloud. Bogged down by lengthy, complicated sentences, no readily discernible underlying structure, and a flat plot, the story is neither entertaining nor particularly educational and is likely to confuse young audiences, who are several years from their own bar or bat mitzvahs.
A loving but unsuccessful portrait. (Picture book. 4-8)