Review of Joyful Song: A Naming Story

Joyful Song: A Naming Story Joyful Song: A Naming Story
by Lesléa Newman; illus. by Susan Gal
Preschool, Primary    Levine/Levine Querido    40 pp.
5/24    9781646143702    $18.99

It’s Zachary’s baby sister’s first Shabbat, and the whole family is on their way to the synagogue for her naming ceremony. As they bump into people throughout their diverse neighborhood, a sweet pattern emerges: a neighbor asks the baby’s name; Zachary is bursting to tell, but the family answers with a nickname (e.g., “Little Babka”), since her real name won’t be announced until the ceremony; the neighbor is then invited along. At the ceremony itself, in which Zachary plays an active role, the happy suspense culminates in the reveal of an aptly chosen name. This welcome, positive, inclusive story (the family is interracial and has two mothers) portrays a child infectiously excited about a new sister and about a Jewish ritual. Vibrant illustrations depict a synagogue bathed in warmth and light through stained-glass windows and a cheerful neighborhood complete with palm trees and colorful flora; even a rainstorm doesn’t break the joyful mood. An author’s note discusses the varied traditions around Jewish baby-naming ceremonies.

From the May/June 2024 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Shoshana Flax

Shoshana Flax, associate editor of The Horn Book, Inc., is a former bookseller and holds an MFA in writing for children from Simmons University. She has served on the Boston Globe–Horn Book Award and Sydney Taylor Book Award committees.

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