Night Lights: A Sukkot Story
Daniel's big sister is excited to sleep outside in the family's sukkah, but he is a little nervous. She explains how to be brave, like their Jewish ancestors when they slept in desert huts during the festival of Sukkot.
A child s fear is sweetly tempered by the support of an older sister s comforting, natural solution. --Kirkus Reviews
A retelling a much-loved story, complete with new illustrations.
His big sister Naomi is excited to sleep outside in the sukkah, but Daniel himself is a little nervous.
What about the dark nighttime shadows? What about the scary nighttime sounds?
Naomi tells him to be brave, like their ancestors were when they slept in huts in the desert . . . but that's hard!
On the first night of Sukkot, Daniel is apprehensive about sleeping in the dark sukkah without a night light.
Older sister Naomi likes to show off her knowledge acquired in Hebrew school, so she tells Daniel all about the holiday. She explains how Jews remember the ancestors journey from Egypt, why the sukkah is built, and the reason for an open roof made of tree branches.
Once the building and decorating of their sukkah is finished, Daniel s quiet anxiety parallels Naomi s eager excitement through the family s outdoor dinner. At bedtime, the siblings create a makeshift sleeping area in a corner of the sukkah. In the dark, scary nighttime noises and shadowy images disturb Daniel to the point where he begins to go inside. But to his surprise, Naomi, who has a touch of the heebie-jeebies herself, encourages him to stay and look up through the branches of the sukkah s open roof. He sees a sky full of stars, or night lights, as they glowed for the ancestors thousands of years ago.
Soft paintings provide a contemporary view of a White Jewish family with some parallel historical scenes of the forbearers making their way through the desert.
The interwoven explanation of the holiday within the context of the story is enhanced with an afterword that references today s refugees, who must live under precarious circumstances in temporary shelters.
A child s fear is sweetly tempered by the support of an older sister s comforting, natural solution. (Picture book. 5-7)
Daniel, his older sister Naomi, and their parents prepare for Sukkot by building a sukkah in their backyard.
As they decorate, Daniel learns about the holiday. Naomi explains that in the sukkah “We’re supposed to see the sky through the roof.” Just like their ancestors, who slept in huts after escaping Egypt, Daniel and Naomi will spend the night in their sukkah. They are usually joined by Grandpa but this year he is sick with a cold so the kids are on their own. Daniel is hesitant, recalling the “scary noises” he heard last year. It doesn’t help that Naomi teases him about being afraid of the dark. She tells Daniel that he won’t be able to bring his night light into the sukkah because there won’t be a way to plug it in. “Do you think our ancestors had night lights…?” she asks. Following a festive dinner, it’s time for bed but Daniel can’t fall asleep. The sukkah feels dark and cold; it’s a far cry from the cheerful place it was earlier that evening. Daniel is fearful of the howling wind and the loud animal sounds he hears. He is also frightened when scary faces appear to be forming on the decorative squashes. Teddy bear in tow, Daniel decides it is “Too hard being an ancestor” and wants to go back inside the house. However, Naomi asks him to stay admitting that she too is feeling a bit spooked. Together, the siblings look up to the sky. As the sparking stars peek through the roof of the sukkah, Naomi realizes that maybe the ancestors did have night lights after all. Daniel recognizes that, like him, maybe “Our ancestors were brave, and a little scared, too.” Finally, the kids fall asleep.
The illustrations cleverly depict the current happenings in the story, including subtext like the sukkah’s traditional decorations of hanging fruits and paper chains. Some pages feature illustrations of the ancestors on their journey; those are in more muted tones. Also shown are elements of Daniel’s imagination including the faces he “sees” on the squashes and the menacing shapes in the shadows.
The book also includes a brief but thoughtful afterword imploring young readers to think about safety and shelter and how it relates to the holiday. The author offers insights into the significance of Sukkot providing a lens which mirrors some modern day childhood experiences. Young readers will enjoy the charming characters and relatable family dynamics, especially between the siblings. Night Lights: A Sukkot Story is a timeless choice.
-- Jillian Bietz, The Jewish Book Council
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Barbara Diamond Goldin is the recipient of the Sydney Taylor Body-of-Work Award from the Association of Jewish Libraries. This award is presented to the author whose collected works are a distinguished contribution to Jewish literature for children. "Goldin's consistently commendable and recommendable books combine talented writing, solid research, personal commitment and deep caring". Barbara has written many award-winning books on Jewish themes, including A Persian Princess, The Passover Cowboy, and Meet Me at the Well: The Girls and Women of the Bible. Barbara is the director of a public library and lives in western Massachusetts.
ABOUT THE ILLUSTRATOR
Amberin Huq works with many different kinds of clients, including publishers, children's theaters, and magazines, creating work for children of all ages. Amberin lives and works just outside London.