Candleschtick is thrilled to share some new picture books that would make terrific gifts for the kids in your life. These books include some Yiddish words and illustrations of delicious-looking Jewish foods!
Read on for Candleschtick’s interviews with these immensely talented book creators. Visit our new Candleschtick Bookshop for purchase links.
First up is Bubbie & Rivkah’s Best-Ever Challah (So Far!) by Sarah Lynne Reul (Abrams, 2022)
We love how your book shows Bubbie and Rivka learning to make challah together. They share so much warmth and humor, and the setbacks they face are familiar to those of us who’ve attempted challah-making. “Practice makes progress” is a favorite line. Where did the idea for this story come from?
In the early days of the pandemic, I noticed that many people I knew, who had never particularly cooked or baked much, were suddenly posting glamour shots of these gorgeous loaves of bread they had baked. I had always found bread-making to be kind of mysterious and full of a magic/science that I couldn’t quite grasp - my early attempts had turned out lumpy, dense, rubbery or overcooked. I liked the idea of a grandma and her granddaughter trying a new challenge together, while also incorporating a new Jewish tradition into their week.
In several spreads, Rivka wears her Bubbie’s costume jewelry. On the Candleschtick team, two of us share a grandmother, and when we were kids, we dressed up in her costume jewelry too!
Yes! My cousin and I used to wear our grandma’s jewelry. We especially liked to drape her rhinestone necklaces over our heads, so they’d sit like tiaras on our foreheads.
Your final challah spread is gorgeous!! How did you illustrate such a delicious-looking challah?
Thanks! I practiced a whole lot, trying to get the braids in each strand to weave in and underneath the others. I had thought a lot about what makes a food illustration appealing when I illustrated my book NERP! (which has all made-up monster foods), so I tried to apply the same ideas to the challah. I knew I wanted it to shine with different golden-baked tones!
Favorite Yiddish word? shpilkes - I’m always full of it.
Challah and…? everything bagel spice, with sliced garlicky green olives! I have my daughter Coralie to thank for that combination.
Apple sauce or sour cream? Both please!
To learn more about Sarah Lynne Reul and her wonderful books, visit her online.
Next is Gracie Brings Back Bubbe’s Smile by Jane Sutton, illustrated by Debby Rahmalia (Albert Whitman & Company, 2022)
In the book, Bubbie is sad and grieving the loss of Zayde. We love how her granddaughter Gracie brings back her smile through their time spent together sharing Yiddish words. Where did the idea for this story come from?
I’ve always loved the colorful, expressive language of Yiddish, and I was crazy about my grandparents. During one of my husband’s and my extra-long, beginning of the Covid era walks, I used a Yiddish word (I forget which), and I got the idea for a picture book in which a grandma teaches her granddaughter Yiddish expressions. As I developed the idea more, I wanted to add more of a compelling reason for the lessons to occur. That’s when I decided to have Bubbe in mourning for her husband, who recently died.
You included several expressive Yiddish words that we love--mensch, chutzpah, and latke are some favorites at Candleschtick. Are there certain words you knew you wanted in the story when you first started writing it?
I knew the word naches (joy) would have to be there because it would be in the happy ending. And I knew we’d need kvetch (complain) because it’s funny. And of course, I’d need to throw in an oy.
You’ve authored several other picture books with Jewish themes. Can you tell us about those titles?
Esther’s Hanukkah Disaster (Kar-Ben 2013) is about a purple gorilla who waits until the last minute to buy gifts for her friends. All her choices, like a jogging suit for a turtle, turn out to be hilariously inappropriate. Sad to have goofed so miserably, she comes up with a solution—a festive Hanukkah party with an added feature—the guests swap gifts. The book has an underlying message about empathy and the meaning of the holiday.
Paulie’s Passover Predicament (Kar-Ben 2018) is about a moose who’s hosting his first seder and wants it to be perfect. But…it’s not. Despite his gaffes, like thinking horseradish means carving a radish into the shape of a horse and getting locked in the basement while searching for the afikomen, he and his kind friends have a joyous Passover.
(Insert Child’s Name) Magical Hanukkah, Hallmark Books
Personalized, print-on-demand book with a rhyming story depicting the recipient receiving a surprise gift of magical powers that let them fly, grow, shrink, and gain super-strength to help them prepare for Hanukkah.
Favorite Yiddish word? Machaya (Delicious, a pleasure. Wearing her snug-fitting white with a glued-on-red-and-yellow-flower bathing cap, my mother would enter the lake where we vacationed and proclaim, “It’s a machaya!”)
Bagels with…? A schmear of cream cheese and a slice of tomato from my garden (really my husband’s garden—he does all the work)
Lokshen or potato? Potato
To learn more about Jane Sutton and her terrific books, visit her online. Also be sure to read Jane’s recent post on Kveller, “The Yiddish Words That Connect Five Generations of My Family."