Rabbi Benjamin's Buttons

Overview

As a sign of affection for their warm-hearted rabbi, the families of the congregation make Rabbi Benjamin a special holiday vest, complete with four shiny silver buttons. Throughout the year—Rosh Hashanah, Sukkot, Chanukah, and Passover—the rabbi celebrates with his congregation, unable to resist their delicious home-cooked food. But with each holiday his vest grows tight, tighter, until . . . POP!

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Overview

As a sign of affection for their warm-hearted rabbi, the families of the congregation make Rabbi Benjamin a special holiday vest, complete with four shiny silver buttons. Throughout the year—Rosh Hashanah, Sukkot, Chanukah, and Passover—the rabbi celebrates with his congregation, unable to resist their delicious home-cooked food. But with each holiday his vest grows tight, tighter, until . . . POP!

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
★ 06/16/2014
Rabbi Benjamin and his congregation are besotted with one another, but when the community presents its leader with a yellow-gold vest to wear on holidays, decorated with four shiny silver buttons, they neglect to factor in one thing: Jewish holidays mean lots of irresistible, calorie- and emotion-laden Jewish cooking. As the rabbi grows increasingly portly at various dinners, it’s clear to both him and his attentive dog that the vest and its silver buttons are not engineered to expand. Oy-yoy-yoy! You don’t have to be Jewish to love this marvelously funny, wholly original story about the intersection of faith, food, and families—in fact, it’s got a wrap-up that Michelle Obama would applaud: Rabbi Benjamin discovers that a regimen of community-centered exercise (like helping one family plant a Sukkot garden) can work wonders. McGinty’s (Gandhi: A March to the Sea) loving, lighthearted prose is as sunshiny as her characters, while Reinhardt’s (The Adventures of a South Pole Pig) detailed watercolors depict a diverse congregation brimming with endearing idiosyncrasies and mutual affection—a real mishpochah. Ages 4–8. Illustrator’s agent: Marietta B. Zacker, Nancy Gallt Literary Agency. (Aug.)
School Library Journal
08/01/2014
K-Gr 2—Rabbi Benjamin has a loving relationship with his congregants, who present him with a holiday vest one Rosh Hashanah as a token of their esteem. During Sukkot, Chanukah, and Passover, he overindulges in the treats cooked up by his friends. One by one, his buttons pop off as his stomach expands. Instead of despairing, the man spends the summer helping his friends with tasks that give him a good workout, and by the following Rosh Hashanah, he is pleased to accept a wonderful new vest (with the retrieved buttons) to replace the stretched and battered old one. A number of positive themes run through this story: community, hospitality, health, problem solving. Diversity is celebrated in the cheerful watercolor and ink illustrations, which include mixed-race and single-parent families in the congregation, as well as a dad flouting traditional gender roles as he cooks and takes care of his baby. These holidays provide a framework for the story but are not the focus. The many universal themes are more central to the book than the Jewish content and make it appropriate for general audiences. The four recipes (one for each holiday) will also appeal across cultures. A pleasant story that can be used year-round as a celebration of Jewish heritage, the love of community, and the importance of eating right.—Heidi Estrin, Congregation B'nai Israel, Boca Raton, FL
Kirkus Reviews
2014-06-10
This story will feel familiar to many readers, and some of them will find that oddly disconcerting.There’s a famous Jewish folk tale: A man’s coat is wearing out, so he tailors it into a vest and, as it gets even older, into a button. When that button finally wears out, he’s left with only the story. McGinty’s book reads like that folk tale turned inside out. A rabbi’s congregation buys him a vest with beautiful silver buttons. Over the course of a year, the vest becomes more and more timeworn, and as the rabbi eats delicious holiday meals, the buttons pop off, first one at a time and then two at once. But there’s a surprise: The congregation has collected the buttons and sewn them onto a brand-new vest, even more beautiful than the old one. The inverted story is charming, if a little slight, but it may seem familiar for another reason. The use of language is often trite and sometimes mawkish. The expression “A happy congregation is the sunshine of my heart” appears with variations throughout the book. The book’s less sentimental readers may find they prefer the earlier folk tale. But Reinhardt’s watercolor-and-ink drawings are strange and captivating. The rabbi’s beard seems to point in two directions at once.Every reader, sentimental or not, can enjoy the many holiday recipesat the end of the book. (glossary) (Picture book. 4-8)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781580894326
  • Publisher: Charlesbridge Publishing, Inc.
  • Publication date: 8/5/2014
  • Pages: 32
  • Sales rank: 773,474
  • Age range: 4 - 8 Years
  • Lexile: AD850L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 10.60 (w) x 9.60 (h) x 0.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Alice McGinty

Alice B. McGinty is the award-winning author of over forty books for children. She is a writer, reader, writing coach and instructor, book reviewer, author, and mom. If you peeked in her pockets, you might find scraps of paper and a pen, a pebble or two, and a guitar pick. Alice has led music sessions for religious school and taught pre-kindergarten classes in her synagogue for many years. An enthusiastic dancer, hiker, and runner, Alice lives in Urbana, Illinois.

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Read an Excerpt

Rabbi Benjamin loved his red brick synagogue on Walnut Street. With a warm, wide smile, he welcomed everyone who entered. "A happy congregation is the sunshine of my heart," the rabbi said.

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