Sweet Tamales for Purim
by Barbara Bietz, illustrated by John Kanzler
August House Publishers, 2020
Many Jewish families helped settle, diverse communities in the desolate, desert terrain of the Old West. Although Sweet Tamales for Purim is a work of fiction, it is inspired by a true event. In 1886, the Hebrew Ladies Benevolent Society of Tucson planned a Purim Ball for the entire community. Barbara tells the story from the perspective of a young girl, who along with her friend, Luis plan to create a Purim festival for their town. Their plans for the celebration were well underway until the family goat, Kitzel, ate all of the traditional holiday pastries, Hamantashen. Fortunately, they find another way to celebrate Purim and the family is able to share their cultural traditions with their new neighbors.
Purim celebrates the courageous stand that Queen Esther made to save the Jewish people from being banished by the king. The young girl’s determination to create a spirited Purim celebration in her western town, provides a unique insight into how children can creatively overcome challenges when life doesn’t go as planned. Her quick thinking, persistence and resourceful actions give their first Purim festival added significance.
What reviewers are saying…
“It’s rare to see Jewish historical picture books set in the American Southwest, making this a sweet snack indeed.” Selected by Marjorie Ingall in Tablet Magazine’s list – The Best Jewish Children’s Books of 2020
“…Bietz establishes on the first page that Purim is open to everyone in Rebecca’s small town. The simple narrative and straightforward language describe a different world, one where ‘Some folks were traveling by horse and buggy, some by train’ to the town’s famed celebration. Historical details, from antique modes of transportation to writing on slate boards, are featured. Rebecca outlines the basics of Purim’s history and observance to her friend whose ‘family celebrates different holidays from mine.’…The book’s target audience of young children will enjoy the story’s simplicity, as well as its positive message of cooperation and harmony…” Jewish Book Council
“Barbara Bietz’s Sweet Tamales for Purim, enhanced by John Kanzler’s colorful illustrations, is just as sweet as its title. A tale of friendship and joyful celebration unlimited by cultural boundaries, this book is a gift to its readers and a much-needed model of true community.” Lyn Ford, writer, author and nationally recognized Affrilachian storyteller
“…Author/storyteller Barbara Bietz tells this entertaining story from the perspective of a young girl, who along with her… friend, Luis plan to create a Purim festival for their town. Their plans for the celebration were well underway until the family goat, Kitzel, ate all of the traditional holiday pastries… Fortunately, they find another way to celebrate Purim and the family is able to share their cultural traditions with their new neighbors! Charming, entertaining, and with an important social/cultural message that will have special value for young Jewish readers…and unreservedly recommended for family, elementary school, and community library collections.” Midwest Book Review
*Sweet Tamales for Purim was recommended by the organizers of the Ann and Stephen Kaufman Jewish Book and Arts Festival.