cover image The Story of Shabbat

The Story of Shabbat

Molly Cone. HarperCollins, $14.95 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-06-027944-8

Cone (Who Knows Ten?: Children's Tales of the Ten Commandments) updates her 1966 The Jewish Sabbath in a lively edition newly illustrated by Lisker (When the Beginning Began). Viewing Shabbat through a variety of lenses, the text ranges gracefully through history, ritual and folklore. Cone can be compelling and evocative: ""A person thinks a little bigger on the Sabbath. A person stands a little taller on the Sabbath. A person is a person on the Sabbath."" She admirably streamlines complex ideas. For example, she describes a poem about a prince turned into a dog by a witch's spell, except that he is restored to his human form every Sabbath. Then she adds: ""The poem was not just a fairy tale, for Jews often felt persecuted in those days. Only on the Sabbath did those Jews feel like themselves again."" Lisker's acrylics, rendered in dense, saturated colors and bold shapes, have an edginess that serves the book well when brought to bear on historical subjects, such as the Jews' Egyptian servitude, but the contemporary family scenes are problematic. Readers may appreciate her efforts to show diversity, as in a picture of what appears to be a Falasha family eating challah. Lisker's fans, however, may miss the folkish warmth and exuberance of her previous works: many of the modern celebrants here seem less reverent or uplifted than simply glum. Instructions for making challah and a challah cover conclude the volume. Ages 7-10. (Apr.)