As the Festival of Sukkot is drawing to a close, I apologize for not focusing on any multicultural picture books that highlight my favorite holiday. Having all of my children home for the High Holidays put my brain in vacation mode.
My trip to the public library was far from timely. There were only a handful of titles listed and only two were available. I was delighted to see that one of the best picture books on the topic was still on the shelf.
When I was in graduate school, I tried to obtain a used copy from Amazon only to find that it was outrageously priced. At that time, there was only one copy with a price tag well over $100. I decided to wait. My patience paid off. Today, I was able to find several copies in good condition for less than $5.00.
What can I say? My love of children’s books persists. I no longer have little children and am presently not teaching, but I still treasure well written and creatively illustrated children’s books.
Many books about holidays try too hard to capture every aspect of the holiday at the expense of telling a memorable story. As a result, these books lack the vitality that keeps children engaged. Moreover, when a story primarily focuses on the holiday, the picture book may lose its appeal to a general audience.
Tikvah Means Hope skillfully ties together multiple threads to create a charming story that is not easily forgotten. Patricia combines the disastrous Oakland, California fire with key aspects of the Festival of Sukkot and notable Jewish traditions. An additional level of interest is interjected by including a cat named Tikvah. Lovable animals will undoubtedly draw children into a story.
In this case, Tikvah captured the readers’ attention on the very first page even though the story is focusing on the Roth family building a sukkah. Without being too heavy handed with details, the reader gains a basic understanding of Sukkot. As the intensity of the crippling fire becomes apparent, the focus shifts to the devastating effects of an uncontrollable fire.
With the Colorado fires in mind, I can see how this book would appeal to children who have witnessed wild fires. I vividly recall news stories that focused on the concerns of those affected. Trying to care for pets and also find missing pets were notable issues. This book has a dual agenda. In addition to showcasing the joy of Sukkot, it brings attention to the risks associated with fires.
When the Roth family returned to their neighborhood after the Oakland blaze had subsided, they were surprised to see that Tikvah (a Hebrew word for hope) had survived and that their sukkah was miraculously not destroyed by the flames that consumed everything else nearby.
The end of the story reverts back to the celebration of Sukkot. This shift allows the reader to see a positive aspect of a bleak situation and also learn more about Sukkot. Isn’t that the meaning of hope?
Patricia Polacco (born 1944) is a talented author and illustrator. She did not start writing books until she was in her 40s. The quality of her stories has been recognized by many entities. Although her website is not current, consider visiting. Her life story and list of accomplishments are impressive.
- Fall festivals
- Festival of Sukkot
- Compare Sukkot with Thanksgiving
- Traditions- symbols, observances, and foods
- Hebrew and other languages
- Wildfires and their unpredictable path
- Dealing with loss
- Care of pets and animals
- Oakland, California fire
- Rebuilding lives after a devasting occurrence
- Meaning of hope
- Respecting individual differences
- Sharing cultural traditions with others
- What is your favorite Patricia Polacco book?
- Patricia Polacco’s website is not updated. Does anyone know what she is currently doing?