Why We Chose This Book: Engineer Ari and the Rosh Hashanah Ride

From the moment the Book Selection Committee spied the cover of Engineer Ari and the Rosh Hashanah Ride, we were intrigued. We knew that most 3- and four-year-olds would adore the book’s shiny red steam engine that merrily “toot toots” and “chug-a-lugs” on every other page. Yet, the appeal of Deborah Bodin Cohen’s book goes far beyond its loveable conductor and his handsome train. The book skillfully introduces readers to the traditional symbols of Rosh Hashanah, portrays the rich geographic diversity of Israel, and teaches lessons about friendship and repentance in ways that make sense to preschool-aged children. 

Based on the historical account of the first train ride from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in 1897, the book centers around Engineer Ari being chosen as the first conductor. He brags to Jessie and Nathaniel, his closest engineer buddies. As Ari progresses on his journey, collecting Rosh Hashanah goodies to deliver to the children of Jerusalem, he begins to regret his boastful words and wants to apologize to his friends.

Ari remembers that Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are a time to “do teshuvah. Teshuvah means turning ourselves around and promising to do better.” Ari decides that as soon as he reaches Jerusalem, he will turn both the train and himself around and travel to his friends to ask for their forgiveness, promising to be more careful with his words in the future.
With its vibrant illustrations and many levels of meaning, we hope Engineer Ari and the Rosh Hashanah Ride will be a book that families will return to again and again.