The Moving-Box Sukkah

(Author) (Illustrator)
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Product Details
$18.95  $17.62
Apples & Honey Press
Publish Date
8.35 X 10.94 X 0.47 inches | 0.88 pounds

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About the Author
Rabbi Leah Rachel Berkowitz is the spiritual leader of Congregation Kol Ami in Elkins Park, PA. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Near Eastern and Judaic Studies and Journalism from Brandeis University (2003) and was ordained at HUC-JIR, where she earned dual masters degrees in Hebrew Literature and Religious Education (2008). A contributor to The Sacred Calling: Four Decades of Women in the Rabbinate (CCAR Press 2016, Winner of the National Jewish Book Award), Leah is also the author of two children's books: Queen Vashti's Comfy Pants (Apples and Honey Press 2021) and The World Needs Beautiful Things (Kar-Ben 2018), as well as the middle-grade midrash collection Maybe It Happened This Way: Bible Stories Reimagined with co-author Erica Wovsaniker (Apples and Honey Press 2022). She lives in Elkins Park, PA
Sharon Vargo is a children's book illustrator whose work has appeared in books, magazines, textbooks, as murals, limited edition prints, and in the Mazza Museum in Findlay, Ohio. She earned a BFA from the Pratt Institute in New York. She currently lives in Carmel, IN.
STARRED REVIEW!! "A boy and his mom have just moved from a house to a city apartment. As they unpack, the child worries about finding his blanket and how they will celebrate Sukkot without a backyard. His mother tells stories of various unusual celebrations, and, after a trip to the park, they make an indoor sukkah out of moving boxes, with the rediscovered blanket serving as their starry sky. The first-person text is short and accessible, providing a true sense of the child's concerns. The mixed media illustrations, which are a nice combination of full-bleed single pages and spreads as well as some spot art, create a visually dynamic experience. The child and his mother are the only people depicted, except in memories, keeping the focus squarely on his emotions and dilemmas. The images, reminiscent of Lisa Brown's style, have a slightly cartoony feel, yet the sukkah and the park scene have nice detail. While the lulav and etrog are never mentioned, the reasoning behind the sukkah and the requirements for building one are made clear in text and back matter. Berkowitz successfully creates a sweet, accessible, child-centric story. VERDICT This lovely marriage of a story of moving and Sukkot will be a welcome addition to the shelf in any library serving Jewish patrons or looking to expand their holiday collections." --Amy Lilien-Harper, School Library Journal

A young boy moves from a house to the sev-en-teenth floor of an apart-ment build-ing and wor-ries about the many ways his life will now change. One of his con-cerns is whether he will be able to cel-e-brate the hol-i-day of Sukkot with-out hav-ing a back-yard in which to build a sukkah. His moth-er tells him about the odd places that Jews have built their sukkot through-out his-to-ry, includ-ing on board a ship and on the back of a camel. She reminds him that the Jew-ish peo-ple have his-tor-i-cal-ly been forced to move from place to place; they even spent forty years trav-el-ing through a desert. She notes that they used their inge-nu-ity to cel-e-brate times of joy. The two decide to con-struct a sukkah out of their mov-ing box-es and a spe-cial blan-ket, mak-ing their new space feel just like home.

Col-or-ful pic-tures of fan-ci-ful sukkot and beau-ti-ful scenery enhance this sat-is-fy-ing sto-ry. An author's note dis-cuss-es a debate (in which rab-bis engaged long ago) about where it is pos-si-ble to build a sukkah. It also reminds read-ers that age-old tra-di-tions can be observed in new ways, no mat-ter the cir-cum-stances. One must only think cre-ative-ly and keep a pos-i-tive attitude. --Michal Hoschan-der Malen, Jewish Book Council

A few years ago on the campus of my synagogue, Adat Ari El in North Hollywood CA, Rabbi Jessica Yarkin taught a super cool religious school autumn lesson by using her car as the foundation for a sukkah. Two open doors plus the main car body plus some pine fronds, and there's room for a chair underneath. Et voilà! In The Moving Box Sukkah, author Berkowitz and illustrator Vargo do the same, in a poignant mother-son story of moving, displacement, adaptation, improvisation, and reconnection to both the distant and immediate past. The narrator is a boy whose mom has just moved him to the city from a place where sukkah-building was not hard. No dad in the picture, literally or figuratively. Here in the city, the boy longs for his transitional object from the past, a blue blanket, somehow missing in the unpacking. He worries about how one might build a sukkah in the city. Mom cleverly teaches a little Talmud in the most accessible way about sukkahs, and some gentle history of Jewish displacement and adaptation. The title is the solution, for a book that is finally as much about resilience as anything else. It's not a short narrative, but the text is supported well by Vargo's accessible art, including some clever spot drawings. And yes, the missing blanket ends up playing a bershert role in the story.

It's all Jewish content, from the smallest to the largest themes. I'm going to guess that the mother and son here are not Orthodox, since this sukkah is apparently built indoors and not on the roof of the building, and the boy has no kippah, but that's more a point of information than anything else. What's super good is the Talmud lesson -- the author provides the tractate reference in the afterword -- and how this story is placed in a larger context of a history of movement. Plus, non-Jewish readers will totally get what's going on here. Nicely done. --Sydney Taylor Shmooze