The Moving-Box Sukkah

Leah Berkowitz, Sharon Vargo

Book cover for The Moving-Box Sukkah
Book cover for The Moving-Box Sukkah

The Moving-Box Sukkah

The Moving-Box Sukkah

Leah Berkowitz, Sharon Vargo

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STARRED REVIEW! "A sweet, accessible, child-centric story." --School Library Journal

A boy and his mom find a creative way to make a new apartment in a new city feel a bit more like home as they prepare to celebrate the fall holiday of Sukkot.

Everything is different and nothing feels like home for a boy who has moved to a new city with his mom. As they unpack together, he can't find his special blue blanket, he misses his old yard, and he worries that they won't be able to celebrate holidays as they once did. Calm and sensitive guidance from his mom, who describes how the Israelites had to move and adapt to new surroundings throughout the ages, also includes some hilarious ideas from the rabbis of long ago as they tried to imagine where it might be possible to build a sukkah--the temporary hut where ancient Israelites sheltered during their pilgrimages. The boy begins to see that different isn't necessarily worse, and a new place can begin to feel more like home, especially when family is together.

Critical Reviews

STARRED REVIEW!! "A boy and his mom have just moved from a house to a city apartment. As they unpack, the child worries about finding his blanket and how they will celebrate Sukkot without a backyard. His mother tells stories of various unusual celebrations, and, after a trip to the park, they make an indoor sukkah out of moving boxes, with the rediscovered blanket serving as their starry sky. The first-person text is short and accessible, providing a true sense of the child's concerns. The mixed media illustrations, which are a nice combination of full-bleed single pages and spreads as well as some spot art, create a visually dynamic experience. The child and his mother are the only people depicted, except in memories, keeping the focus squarely on his emotions and dilemmas. The images, reminiscent of Lisa Brown's style, have a slightly cartoony feel, yet the sukkah and the park scene have nice detail. While the lulav and etrog are never mentioned, the reasoning behind the sukkah and the requirements for building one are made clear in text and back matter. Berkowitz successfully creates a sweet, accessible, child-centric story. VERDICT This lovely marriage of a story of moving and Sukkot will be a welcome addition to the shelf in any library serving Jewish patrons or looking to expand their holiday collections." --Amy Lilien-Harper, School Library Journal

A young boy moves from a house to the sev-en-teenth floor of an apart-ment build-ing and wor-ries about the many ways his life will now change. One of his con-cerns is whether he will be able to cel-e-brate the hol-i-day of Sukkot with-out hav-ing a back-yard in which to build a sukkah. His moth-er tells him about the odd places that Jews have built their sukkot through-out his-to-ry, includ-ing on board a ship and on the back of a camel. She reminds him that the Jew-ish peo-ple have his-tor-i-cal-ly been forced to move from place to place; they even spent forty years trav-el-ing through a desert. She notes that they used their inge-nu-ity to cel-e-brate times of joy. The two decide to con-struct a sukkah out of their mov-ing box-es and a spe-cial blan-ket, mak-ing their new space feel just like home.

Col-or-ful pic-tures of fan-ci-ful sukkot and beau-ti-ful scenery enhance this sat-is-fy-ing sto-ry. An author's note dis-cuss-es a debate (in which rab-bis engaged long ago) about where it is pos-si-ble to build a sukkah. It also reminds read-ers that age-old tra-di-tions can be observed in new ways, no mat-ter the cir-cum-stances. One must only think cre-ative-ly and keep a pos-i-tive attitude. --Michal Hoschan-der Malen, Jewish Book Council

A few years ago on the campus of my synagogue, Adat Ari El in North Hollywood CA, Rabbi Jessica Yarkin taught a super cool religious school autumn lesson by using her car as the foundation for a sukkah. Two open doors plus the main car body plus some pine fronds, and there's room for a chair underneath. Et voilà! In The Moving Box Sukkah, author Berkowitz and illustrator Vargo do the same, in a poignant mother-son story of moving, displacement, adaptation, improvisation, and reconnection to both the distant and immediate past. The narrator is a boy whose mom has just moved him to the city from a place where sukkah-building was not hard. No dad in the picture, literally or figuratively. Here in the city, the boy longs for his transitional object from the past, a blue blanket, somehow missing in the unpacking. He worries about how one might build a sukkah in the city. Mom cleverly teaches a little Talmud in the most accessible way about sukkahs, and some gentle history of Jewish displacement and adaptation. The title is the solution, for a book that is finally as much about resilience as anything else. It's not a short narrative, but the text is supported well by Vargo's accessible art, including some clever spot drawings. And yes, the missing blanket ends up playing a bershert role in the story.

It's all Jewish content, from the smallest to the largest themes. I'm going to guess that the mother and son here are not Orthodox, since this sukkah is apparently built indoors and not on the roof of the building, and the boy has no kippah, but that's more a point of information than anything else. What's super good is the Talmud lesson -- the author provides the tractate reference in the afterword -- and how this story is placed in a larger context of a history of movement. Plus, non-Jewish readers will totally get what's going on here. Nicely done. --Sydney Taylor Shmooze

A young boy has warm memories of past Sukkot celebrations with neighbors and sleeping in his yard underneath the stars. But he and his mother have just moved into a17th floor city apartment, and his mood is as blue as his favorite blanket, still packed away or even worse, left behind at his old house. His mom is portrayed with gentle wisdom, distracting him with a walk through a city park, the trees ablaze with autumn colors. She shares tales of unusual sukkahs and the reminder that the Jewish people have always found inventive ways to keep their holidays, even in times of movement and displacement. Their ability to make new places feel like home resonates with the boy, who comes up with his own novel idea for a sukkah built with moving boxes, branches, imagination, and the comfort of the found blanket. Moving is always challenging, but this child's sense of belonging to his religion, his mom, and a rich Jewish tradition promises to make for an easier transition.--Association of Jewish Libraries

Publishing Information

Publisher: Apples & Honey Press
Pub date: 2023-08-22
Length: 32 pages

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