Long ago, when Jerusalem was still a small town, there was a bakery. The bakery specialized in challah, and made enough for the entire community. Jacob was the bakery’s delivery boy who drove the cart that was pulled by Soosie, the owners’ horse. The two traveled in the early morning along the cobblestone streets of Jerusalem, delivering challah. As each family paid, the coins dropped into the metal bank with a clink-clang. They did the same route, day after day, month after month. But then one day, Jacob was too sick to make the deliveries. Jacob was certain that Soosie, the horse, could make the deliveries all on her own. So they put a note on the cart and sent her on her way. Soosie stopped at each place, accepted the money in the bank, and walked on. Back at the bakery, they worried about whether Soosie could do it all on her own. Three hours passed, and finally Soosie was home again with an empty wagon and a bank full of coins.
Inspired by the history of Angel Bakery in Jerusalem, the author created a gentle folktale about dependability, challah and Shabbat. The author explains the details of Shabbat in her author notes, including the importance of animal rights as a part of Shabbat. Her writing pays homage to folklore capturing the same repeating elements as Jacob and Soosie make their regular rounds. She also uses plenty of sounds in her writing, emphasizing them and inviting participation.
The illustrations are light-hearted and merry. From the bustling bakery to the stable next door to the many people of Jerusalem they interact with. The entire book has the same quiet humor and good-natured belief in one another.
Paying homage to folklore and Jerusalem, this Jewish picture book is full of the warmth of bread and community. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Barclay has only ever wanted to be an apprentice to the town’s mushroom farmer. He’s worked hard and followed all of the rules after his parents’ death when a Beast attacked their small town. The town has lots of rules, some small and some large. One of the biggest is not to wander into the Woods that surrounds it. Barclay wouldn’t dream of breaking the rules, until one day he finds himself a bit farther into the Woods than he meant to be. It’s when he’s there that he bonds accidentally with a Beast and becomes what his entire town fears: a Lore Keeper. Barclay tries to hide it at first, but is soon run out of town by an angry mob. With the help of another Lore Keeper, he reaches the closest town of Lore Keepers where all he hopes to do is have his bond with the Beast removed. But that isn’t as simple as he hoped and soon he is drawn into a competition to get an apprenticeship with the hopes that the masters can save him and allow him to return to a simple life of mushroom gathering.
Foody’s writing is immediately engaging. She has created a fantasy world that is a delightful mix of everyday elements, a dangerous competition and amazing magic and Beasts. Readers get to learn about Lore Masters alongside Barclay even though he does his best not to be impressed or too interested in their ways. The world in particularly well built with elements that all work to form a fascinating and unique whole. The beast-bonding element is interesting and has collectible and connection elements similar to Pokemon but much more physical and with shared abilities that the person receives too.
Barclay is one of those protagonists who has a completely different take on what he is experiencing than the reader will. Even as the reader is delighting in the elements of the Lore Keeper society, Barclay is often whining or looking for a way out. Viola is a great foil for Barclay, someone who was raised as a Lore Keeper and yet has found herself asking questions about their world too. She and the other characters bring diversity to the story, so I often found myself longing for this to be her story instead.
The first in a series, this book is a wild fantasy romp. Appropriate for ages 9-12.