The Sundown Kid

The Sundown Kid: A Southwestern Shabbat

by Barbara Bietz, illustrated by John Kanzler

August House Publishers, 2017

During the early days of settling in the West, there were many Jewish families who became fearless pioneers seeking to create new communities in the desolate terrain. In this story, a young boy and his family move to the desert Southwest where they are the only Jewish family in their small town. Despite keeping busy with chores, adapting to their new home among strangers proves challenging. 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 for Shabbat dinner. By honoring the Jewish value of inviting guests into their home for a meal, the family creates a sense of community in their new town.

Sydney Taylor Notable Book 2017

A PJ Library selection

What Reviewers are saying…

“It’s actually the best Shabbat picture book I’ve ever read…” featured on Betsy Bird‘s 31 Days, 31 Lists: Day Twenty-Five – 2017 Transcendent Holiday Picture Books, Fuse 8 Blog, School Library Journal

“…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. Clean lines and muted colors on a textured background illustrate a late-19th-century Western landscape . . . 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.” Kirkus Reviews

“…Rich colors fill each page so well one can almost smell the chicken soup! Subliminally, the story reminds readers that all kinds of people moved west, not just the ones featured in movies.” San Francisco Book Review

“Mama in particular feels lonely out west, where they are the only Jewish family in town. “Too much soup, not enough family,” is her poignant refrain. Her son cleverly thinks outside the box by inviting friendly non-Jewish neighbors to Shabbat dinner, and Mama at last begins to feel at home. In these modern times of divisiveness, this is a hopeful story about cross-cultural acceptance that will be enjoyed by Jewish and non-Jewish readers. The illustrations by John Kanzler are also a real treat.” Heidi Estrin, The Book of Life Podcast/Blog

The Sundown Kid… not only gives a brief history of the Wild West from the perspective of a Jewish family, but also includes the lesson of joining together with your community and sharing your traditions and customs together, regardless of what religion you may be. . . the boy recognized his mother’s feelings and instead of being passive, he became an active member of the family to help his mother feel better about their new home.”

“A happy Shabbat supper tradition began in the new desert home for this kind Jewish family. Delightful, comic, colorful illustrations grace this warm tale of encouragement and community support.” Midwest Jewish Book Review

“…It will open up an opportunity to engage a young reader…in a conversation about culture, identity and community. One does not necessarily need to be Jewish to appreciate the book or use it with your child. Read it with your kids. Maybe you’ll all learn something new.” Reviewer

“This is a gorgeous little book for children, beautifully illustrated, explaining the concepts of hospitality and sharing the blessings of Shabbat in a simple and fun way. Reading it was a delight.” Elizabeth at The Garden Window

“Five Stars. A welcome addition to any Jewish children’s book collection. Captures the feelings of isolation Jewish settlers in the West must have experienced–and the joy of celebrating Shabbat with guests. John Kanzler’s graceful illustrations in a Southwestern palette enhance the mood of this delightful tale.” Net Galley Reviewer

Signing copies of THE SUNDOWN KID at Barnes and Noble