Beni’s Tiny Tales: Around the Year in Jewish Holidays

Little, Brown/Christy Ottaviano. Aug. 2023. 144p. Tr $21.99. ISBN 9780316331777.
PreS-Gr 2–Zalben returns with a Jewish holiday compilation starring the children of the bear characters from her many earlier works on individual holidays. The book begins with Beni and Sarah’s children and their cousins celebrating Chanukah. Each child receives a Jewish calendar, which prompts the rest of the book: descriptions of each holiday, vignettes starring the grandchildren, one or more recipes or crafts, and some songs and prayers. As in most compilations, the quality of the stories is uneven. Some work well, while others feel choppy, transitionless, or incomplete. Descriptions of the holidays are mostly concise and useful, while the crafts and recipes vary in difficulty. The book ends with an extensive glossary of Jewish terms. Illustrations include images of Zalben’s iconic bears celebrating the holidays, as well as spot art of holiday-related items. Packed with content, the book contains a few missteps, including awkward phrasing and unclear amounts and items in the recipes. The author makes a point to modernize the feel of the stories by including one holiday celebrated virtually due to a storm. On the whole, this is a pleasant book that will be best used in Jewish preschools and day schools, as well as for family gifts.
VERDICT Public libraries with Jewish populations will find this a useful overview of holidays, but it will not replace the many other picture books covering them individually.

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