Big Sam is the rollicking Jewish answer to Paul Bunyan. When Rosh Hashanah comes around, he digs a big hole (today’s Grand Canyon) in which he begins to mix up a challah recipe. He whittles a California redwood tree into a mixing spoon, and when the dough is finished, he sets it to rise in Yellowstone Park, where the geysers keep the ground warm and steamy. The challah finishes baking right on schedule for the holiday, but wait — not so fast. Time for a little tikkun olam. Big Sam’s baking has left a giant-sized mess, with trampled fields, dammed-up rivers, and the like. Now he must put the world to right again, which he does, just in time to see in the new year with his friends. This book is nothing but pure fun from beginning to end, with a gentle environmental lesson thrown in. Kimmel’s tall tale is perfect for reading aloud, and soft, evocative illustrations that show the grandeur of an old-time American landscape are a perfect match. A cross-country map of the country as endpaper is a bonus. Matching Rosh Hashanah with an appreciation of the natural world is an inspired choice.
Highly recommended for ages 4 to 8.
Leslie Kimmelman grew up outside Philadelphia and graduated from Middlebury College in Vermont. She is the author of many children’s books, awards for which include Best Children’s Books of the Year from the Bank Street College of Education; Notable Children’s Trade Books in the Field of Social Studies; and Sydney Taylor Notable Books. Kimmelman is an editor at Sesame Workshop and lives with her family just north of New York City.