In lilting, rhythmic, nursery-rhyme-style, Jane Yolen presents the story of young Becca who, like many children her age, will not try new food in Something New for Rosh Hashanah. If Becca hasn’t previously eaten and liked it, the new offerings rate a spirited “NO!” every time. The refusals are often punctuated with a definitive “ICK,” accompanied by a facial grimace that makes Becca’s dislike as clear as it can possibly be. Becca’s cat keeps her company and grimaces along with her. When Rosh Hashanah arrives and Bubbe’s delicious brisket is on the menu, Becca continues to demur. “NEVER!” she emphatically declares as she and her cat storm out of the room.
In order to accustom Becca to new experiences, her father offers to shave off his mustache, and her mother offers to learn to knit sweaters. While the idea of a new sweater piques interest, Becca remains unwilling to try new foods. She will not taste the Rosh Hashanah chicken soup. She will not taste the kugel. Even the sweet honey cake does not pass Becca’s lips. Then she spies a lone green bean, the biggest green bean anyone has ever seen. She gobbles the green bean and asks for more. The impasse is over; Becca is no longer reluctant to eat new foods and she promises to try gefilte fish when Rosh Hashanah rolls around again. Becca and her cat both sport giant grins; new foods are now eagerly awaited.
Yolen’s repetitive beat is catchy and perfect for singing or chanting aloud. The listener will be caught up in the rhyme and rhythm, possibly accompanying the telling with a spirited tapping of fingers or toes. Those reading it on their own may find themselves singing or chanting, too.
Bold colors, big expressive faces, and plenty of detail make the illustrations stand out, adding to the fun. This story, as sweet as honey cake, encourages children to try new things as it deliciously entertains.
An appended note teaches the reader more about the holiday of Rosh Hashanah.
Michal Hoschander Malen is the editor of Jewish Book Council’s young adult and children’s book reviews. A former librarian, she has lectured on topics relating to literacy, run book clubs, and loves to read aloud to her grandchildren.