cover image Joyful Song: A Naming Story

Joyful Song: A Naming Story

Lesléa Newman, illus. by Susan Gal. Levine Querido, $18.99 (40p) ISBN 978-1-64614-370-2

In this picture book look at contemporary Jewish life, Newman (The Fairest in the Land) and Gal (Dear Stray) focus on a synagogue baby-naming ceremony. Young Zachary and his moms walk with their newborn through a bustling neighborhood to the synagogue, inviting the neighbors they encounter to come along. Everyone they meet wants to know what the infant is called, but as Mama, portrayed with pink skin, and Mommy, portrayed with brown skin like the couple’s children, subtly remind their son, the “real” name won’t be made known until the ceremony itself. Instead, the family responds with newly minted nicknames: Little Babka, Shayneh Maideleh (“beautiful girl”). Zachary soon has the honor of announcing the baby’s name to the whole congregation: he notes “My sister opens her eyes and stretches out her little hand as though she wants to pull her name right out of my mouth” before revealing, “Aliza Shira which means ‘joyful song.’ ” Radiant artwork has soft pencil and crayon textures and tissue-paper–like layers of bright colors, capturing the coziness of Zachary’s home, their neighborhood’s tropical setting, and the sacred space where a loving, variously inclusive community has gathered to welcome their newest member. An author’s note concludes. Ages 4–8. Author’s agent: Elizabeth Harding, Curtis Brown Ltd. Illustrator’s agent: Gail Gaynin, Morgan Gaynin. (May)