THE SUNDOWN KID has just received a 2017 Notable Book for Young Readers award from the Sydney Taylor Foundation!
This prestigious award is named in memory of Sydney Taylor, author of the classic All-of-a-Kind Family series. The award announced by the Association of Jewish Libraries recognizes books for children and teens that exemplify high literary standards while authentically portraying the Jewish experience.
The Sundown Kid: A Southwestern Shabbat, a LittleFolk picture tells the story of a Jewish family’s move to the “Wild West.” In hopes of creating a new home and finding a new community in the desolate southwest terrain, the family does their best to preserve their traditions. However, they are the only Jewish family in their small southwestern town. Despite keeping busy with chores, adapting to their new home among strangers proves to be a challenge. Every Shabbat, Mama complains that there is “too much soup, not enough family.” The young boy has an idea to help relieve Mama’s homesickness and invites their new neighbors to join them for Shabbat.
John Kanzler’s illustrations capture this pioneer family in a setting of warm Southwestern hues and soft lines, layered with a montage of vintage photographs that emphasize the importance of family, history and tradition.
In a review published through Storyteller.net, a writer praised, “Barbara has created essentially a first-person fiction regarding a historical reality of Jewish families bringing their culture and religion to the Old West. The author tells of one young man’s solution to the problem resulting in a multicultural gathering of food and community.” In another review published in Kirkus, the reviewer wrote, “Bietz uses an oral storytelling style with repetitive phrasing to introduce the arrival of Shabbat, enfolding both details of the hardworking life of homesteaders with Jewish cultural details…Welcoming guests and even strangers to the dinner table is part of the Shabbat ritual, and it’s celebrated nicely here.”
After moving to a town in the Old West, a young, white Jewish boy and his parents find celebrating Shabbat to be a lonely tradition.
On the western frontier, Papa spends the week with his boy making his homestead ready for planting while Mama takes care of their adobe house. But on Friday, regular work is suspended to make ready for Shabbat. After lighting candles and blessing wine and challah, the family feels unsettled. “Too much soup,” says Mama. “Not enough family.” In the city back East there were always aunts, uncles, and cousins with whom to share a Shabbat meal. Reminiscing about the large, weekly family gatherings gives the boy the idea to invite their new friends and neighbors for some good old-fashioned chicken soup, thus making the next Shabbat a more joyous, communal affair. Bietz uses an oral storytelling style with repetitive phrasing to introduce the arrival of Shabbat, enfolding both details of the hardworking lives of homesteaders with Jewish cultural details. Clean lines and muted colors on a textured background illustrate a late-19th-century Western landscape and its mostly white residents (blacksmith Ricardo and his nephew, both Latino, are notable exceptions). Framed portrait drawings in gray tones portray flashbacks of the family’s much-missed relatives and are superimposed collage-style on several scenes.
Welcoming guests and even strangers to the dinner table is part of the Shabbat ritual, and it’s celebrated nicely here.
I have a new book coming out in January ’17 called THE SUNDOWN KID: A Southwestern Shabbat. It is written by the wonderful author Barbara Bietz and published by Little Folks, an imprint of August House.
A family moves west in the 1880’s and experiences the wide-open spaces in this newly settled part of our country. It is a little TOO wide-open for the mother, however, who misses her extended family, particularly during traditional shabbat meals. The child empathizes with her, and decides to help by bringing together new neighbors and townsfolk to celebrate shabbat with the family.
My new page is finally starting to come together, after a too-long period of CrazyBusy. Thanks for your patience! Please check in periodically, as I have a lot of art to put up here. I love seeing these pieces again, and so many rediscovered WIPs that I am excited to share as soon as I can. Here’s a Thanksgiving-themed sketch from this time last year. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!