Unlike Hanukkah or Passover, children’s books specifically for Shavuot are few and far between. Instead, the holiday finds us using books for young children focused on mountains, large and small; rules, welcome or resisted; and blintzes — always welcome.
A perfect example is Kar-Ben Publishing’s new book for Shavuot, “Sadie and the Big Mountain” by Jamie Korngold, illustrated by Julie Fortenberry. Sadie’s synagogue nursery school classmates are excited about their forthcoming hike to commemorate Shavuot, but Sadie is definitely not. She hates hikes, is afraid of heights, and is sure she’s much too little to climb, like Moses, high enough to reach God. Sadie worries each day as Morah Sarah helps everyone prepare for the dreaded Friday when they will make the ascent with Rabbi Jamie — author Korngold is referred to as the “adventure rabbi” — and picnic on the blintzes the class prepared. But her worries prove as out of scale as the “mountain” the class will climb. Rabbi Jamie explains that even the real Mt. Sinai was not so big, that God chose a small mountain to teach that anyone can climb high enough to reach God.
To learn how and why God chose a small mountain, look for “The Littlest Mountain,” simply told by Barb Rosenstock, charmingly illustrated by Melanie Hall and published by Kar-Ben. Based on a Midrashic legend, the story attributes human qualities to the various mountains, all competing for the honor of being chosen as the site for the giving of the Ten Commandments. Only Mt. Sinai stands silent, convinced it is neither grand nor important nor beautiful enough to be considered for such an important job. The story’s geography may not be accurate, but this tale is right on the mark about arrogance and humility, whether in mountain or in humans.
You want rules? “Ten Good Rules” by Susan Remick Topek lays out 10 simple rules for pre-schoolers, each set on a handsomely designed page that illustrator Rosalyn Schanzer has made double as a counting book by featuring a child’s hand pop up the right number of fingers. In “No Rules for Michael” by Sylvia A. Rouss, Susan Simon’s pictures clearly show the chaos that results when his teacher grants Michael’s wish for no rules at all in his classroom.
You prefer blintzes? Sylvia Rouss also wrote “Sammy Spider’s First Shavuot,” which takes preschoolers through the sequential preparations for making blintzes and otherwise celebrating receiving the Torah, to provide us with a “recipe for life.” (Kar-Ben, again, for all three.)
Just for a change, PJ Library has reissued an old favorite, “A Mountain of Blintzes” by Barbara Diamond Goldin (Marshall Cavendish Children). Nicely illustrated by Anik McGrory, it humorously shows how a family works together to make a delicious holiday celebration possible. Includes a recipe and a web address, www.PJLibrary.org, where you can learn more about the Jewish-book-a-month program.