cover image Happy New Year, Beni

Happy New Year, Beni

Jane Breskin Zalben. Henry Holt & Company, $13.95 (32pp) ISBN 978-0-8050-1961-2

Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, should be an occasion for a pleasant family gathering, but for young Beni, it means a visit with cousin Max, whose relentless misbehavior dampens the holiday mood. In a gentle tone that stresses the coziness of traditional Jewish family life, Zalben ( Beni's First Chanukah ) introduces readers to the sights, sounds and tastes of Rosh Hashanah. The bear family lights candles, hears the shofar at the synagogue and samples homemade rugelach and challah. Above all, the New Year's lesson of forgiveness is brought home when Beni's grandfather explains the ritual of Tashlikh, the casting of bread into moving water to symbolize the cleansing of sins. In the end, the squabbling cousins are able to reconcile their differences--for the time being--and start the New Year with a clean slate. Zalben's sweet-natured watercolor-and-pencil illustrations, in warm roses and golds, portray the festivities in inviting detail, from the table set with lace cloth and candles to the Torah scrolls and prayer shawls in the synagogue. A recipe for raisin challah, included here, might prove daunting to adults, much less children, but otherwise this book provides an excellent, age-appropriate introduction to a venerable celebration. Ages 5-8. (Sept.)