Written by: Aviva L. Brown
Illustrated by: Anastasia Kanavaliuk
For ages: 4-8 years
Language: English & Hebrew (glossary included)
Topics Covered: POC-Centric Narratives, Judaism, Family, Love, Education, Culture & Traditions, Global Community, Jewish Culture & Identity.
Summary: This book is so great! The world of children’s literature desperately needs more diversity, and this book fills several gaps. Having more main characters of color, especially a family that is Jewish is much needed. Ezra’s family is interracial, and celebrate Shabbat weekly.
Ezra is a bright, curious character. He loves being Jewish, and asking questions. One of his favorite days is Shabbat, because no one does any work. This gets Ezra thinking, what is considered work? Can knots be tied? Can Ezra even tie his shoes on Shabbat?? Wandering around the house, Ezra asks each of his siblings his BIG question but none of them can enlighten him. Ezra’s mother says she will look it up, and then his dad arrives home just in time for Shabbat. His BIG question will have to wait! The reader is introduced to a few vocabulary words and concepts related to Shabbat, as well as the blessing that Ezra’s mom sings. The next morning, shoes still untied, Ezra is able to track down Rabbi Andy to ask his BIG question. Rabbi Andy explains that people follow Judaism all over the world, and everyone interprets the rules a little differently. This makes sense to Ezra, but he’s still unsure on if HIS family is allowed to tie knots, even temporary ones, on Shabbat. As Ezra goes into the sanctuary for the start of services, he bumps into his dad who tells Ezra to tie his shoes.
This book does a great job of explaining the nuances of the religion, and presenting a simple question that adults may not consider but is very important to young people. Another small side plot of this story we found particularly funny is that in the beginning Ezra wonders if the cat thinks in English, but in several places throughout the story we see thought bubbles above their two cats and they’re in fact NOT thinking in English! This book does a fantastic job introducing a young audience to Judaism without knocking the reader over the head. The story is believable, the illustrations are adorable, and the reader is left wanting to know what other BIG questions Ezra has. We can’t wait to see what this author publishes next!
About the Author & the Illustrator:
Aviva Brown and her children converted to Judaism in 2017, but during the preceeding years of Jewish study, she noticed a lack of diversity among Jewish children’s literature. In late 2018, Aviva read a quote by author Beverly Cleary: If you don’t see the book you want on the shelf, write it. So, she did.
In 2019, Aviva founded SpringLight Publishing to publish her books, with the goal of eventually publishing diverse picture books by other independent authors.
Aviva currently lives in North Carolina with her husband, two cats, and four wild animals who sometimes pretend they’re well-mannered children. When she’s not writing, editing, or reading diverse kidlit, she can be found hiding from housework (well, you can try, but she’s super good at hiding), eating popcorn, or singing show tunes.
Anastasia Kanavaliuk is hard to find on the internet! Her Instagram handle is here, and we think she’s so incredibly talented!