Join a family of four as they make challah, a braided Jewish bread used for many holiday meals. It’s Friday evening, which means Shabbat is here. An excitable child narrator guides Mom, Dad and Baby through the recipe as they prepare for dinner with Grandma and Grandpa. Written by Charlotte Offsay and illustrated by Jason Kirschner, Challah Day! (Holiday House, $18.99, 9780823454112) is a scrumptious celebration of family traditions.
Starting at sundown on Friday, Shabbat dinner marks the beginning of the Jewish day of rest. Although we witness the family as they light the Shabbat candles and sit down for the traditional dinner, the book stays focused on making challah, making Challah Day! a sweetly straightforward and celebratory read for Jewish families as well as those wanting to learn more about Jewish culture. Offsay’s jaunty and quick-paced rhyming couplets are perfect for reading aloud and pair well with other picture books about cooking with family, like Linda Sue Park and Hoe Baek Lee’s Bee-Bim Bop! or Lisa J. Amstutz and Talitha Shipman’s Applesauce Day.
Matching the bouncy tone of Offsay’s writing, Kirschner’s charmingly dynamic illustrations highlight the characters’ actions in realistic detail against simple backgrounds. The muted, pastel colors do not detract from the story’s vibrancy. Several full-spread illustrations are especially lovely, such as when the challah dough is being braided, or when children jump across larger-than-life bags of sugar, salt and flour.
After the story is finished, back matter not only offers a recipe for “Challah for a Crowd” but also provides context and information about challah and its surrounding traditions. In addition to highlighting the different ways that challah can be made, Offsay also shows readers various ways that Jewish people come together to celebrate. Challah Day! is simple, but its warmth and joy are palpable. By the end, your mouth will be watering.