A Review of Cakes and Miracles: A Purim Tale by Barbara Diamond Goldin

Cakes and Miracles: A Purim Tale by Barbara Diamond Goldin, New York: Viking, 1991; new shortened edition, Illustrated by Jaime Zollars, Tarrytown NY: Marshall Cavendish Children, 2010.

This fiction picture book set in a small village focuses on a poor widow named Basha and her blind son, Hershel.  Despite his visual impairment, Hershel goes to school and engages in activities that have delighted children for ages, such as “shaking pears from the neighbor’s tree, or catching frogs.” He also plays in the mud near the river and makes sculptures.

Basha tries to support her family by sewing, cooking, and baking cakes and hamantaschen, a Purim pastry.  Herschel helps her by doing his chores, but he wants to accomplish more.  One night, an angel comes to him in a dream, urging the boy to make what he imagines.  After going to the synagogue on the evening of Purim, Herschel takes his mother’s dough and shapes special cookies in the shape of birds, fish, and goblets.  His mother, delighted with his work, bakes them in the morning.

Then, Basha and Herschel take their cakes and cookies to the marketplace.  They sell all of their merchandise.  Herschel is proud and happy.  Now he knows that he can grow up to have whatever career he wants.

Jaime Zollars’ illustrations capture the family’s poverty, the boy’s ingenuity, and the loving bond between Basha and Herschel.  I especially like the last pages of the story when Herschel’s cookies float around him like stars as he smiles.

Author Barbara Diamond Goldin adds an explanation of Purim for readers who may not be familiar with the Jewish holiday.  She tells this moving story simply and effectively.

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Photo by telepathicparanoia

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