Judy Stead's illustrations, rich with festive pinks, greens and purples, are attractive and cheerful even when her characters' expressive faces register disappointment or impatience. What a Way to Start a New Year! is notable in that Jules assumes a basic understanding of the holiday; making this amusing and less obviously didactic book a pleasure to read.
Dina’s family is eating take-out pizza on packing boxes and yearning for their former home, especially since the imminent arrival of the Jewish New Year reminds them of old friends and traditions. Even Dina’s father, “who wasn’t Jewish, but... loved celebrating the holidays,” speaks wistfully of a neighbor’s honey cake. A thwarted trip back to Greenville and a series of small mishaps don’t help (hence the title, which also serves as the story’s refrain), and an invitation to services and dinner from one of Dina’s father’s new co-workers doesn’t encourage Dina, either. But what if Dina is wrong about her new community—in the best kind of way? As Jules (No English) notes in her afterword, arriving in a new community in time for the school year can be a double whammy for Jewish families. Stead’s (The Pink Party) bright, earnest illustrations convey a resilient close-knit family, but while she and Jules succeed in assuring readers that a core value of Judaism is welcoming new arrivals, their storytelling can be literal and heavy-handed. Ages 3–8. (Aug.)
- Anne Pechnyo
As Jules states in her author's note, "Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish New Year, a time when families and friends celebrate with traditional meals of round challah, apples with honey, brisket, and honey or apple cake." But in What a Way to Start a New Year!, the narrator finds she has to learn to celebrate the New Year in a new home in a new city, far away from the comforts of Rosh Hashanahs past. In an attempt to celebrate with their old neighbors and friends, the family tries to pile into the family car and make the drive to the familiar place. But it seems that everything is keeping their family from getting there, from the baby's dirty diaper to forgotten keys and even a flat tire. And with every set back, someone in the family is quick to disappointedly exclaim: "What a way to start a new year!" But their new community is eager with invitations to both synagogue and dinner, leaving the family feeling welcome and accepted in this new place. Jules's relatable story, coupled with Stead's vibrant illustrations will enthrall readers and listeners alike. This book will serve as a good addition to any holiday library or collection. Reviewer: Anne Pechnyo
Starting the Jewish New Year in a new city without friends or extended relatives is tough for Harry and his family, until the generous welcome by their new community known as the mitzvah of hachnasat orchim makes a significant difference. Not yet unpacked and with no plans for Rosh Hashana, the family remembers that their old neighbors, the Kaplans, only two hours away, invited them. The transplanted family piles into the car for the trip, but before the ride even begins, unexpected events lead to delays and alter their plans. Baby's diaper needs changing, then Mom locks herself out of the house. Dad comes with keys, but one flat tire and tow-truck rescue later, it is too late to travel, and the family returns to their moving boxes and thoroughly un–holiday-ready new home. "What a way to start a new year!" Through the disappointment, Dad works on a new plan: to join his officemate at Temple Shalom for the evening service, which leads to a family dinner invitation and an opportunity to meet and make new friends. "What a WONDERFUL way to start a new year!" It's a situation many contemporary families can relate to, and Stead's bright, multimedia illustrations track the emotional arc. A useful addition to the Rosh Hashana shelf. (author's note) (Picture book. 4-7)