What Makes Shabbat Special?

The Friday Nights of Nana book cover

In The Friday Nights of Nana, written by Amy Hest and illustrated by Claire A. Nivola, Jennie and her grandmother find happiness in their joint preparations for the Sabbath. Shabbat, the Jewish Sabbath, is all about timing. This day of rest is set apart from the rest of the week by the things we do to make it feel special, which is why Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, a 20th-century thinker and activist, called it “a palace in time.”

Jennie keeps asking, “Is it time?” — time to bake pie, get dressed in her fancy clothes, and light Shabbat candles. Nana and Jennie make Shabbat an extraordinary experience. They fluff pillows, fold napkins, polish candleholders, cook delicious food, buy flowers, set the table, and dress up in their best. When the family arrives, Nana and Jennie enjoy the results of all their hard work. But it’s not just about the destination. Preparing together throughout the day was a special journey of its own.

From a special breakfast on Friday morning to a mouthwatering Shabbat meal, from selecting the loveliest flowers to saying blessings over lit candles, Nana crafts a beautiful day of learning for her granddaughter. Perhaps Jennie will do the same for her own grandchildren one day.


  • How do you help get ready for Shabbat or other special occasions?
  • If you were helping Jennie and Nana get ready for Shabbat, what would you enjoy doing? What would you do differently?
  • Jennie learns many things from Nana, like how to make an apple pie, polish candleholders, and fold napkins. What have you learned from an older relative?


Have a “Grand-Friends Shabbat”

  • Invite families and older friends and relatives to celebrate together in a “Grand-Friends” Shabbat. Involve children in preparing some favorite recipes of your older guests, learning about music they love, and playing it in the background while you spend time together. Maybe you will learn a new — or old — game.

Video Chat With Grandparents

Three beloved PJ Library books are now available on Kinzoo Together! This amazing app lets family members read and play games together on video calls. When parents are traveling or grandparents can’t be there in person, kiddos can still cozy up with them virtually and enjoy reading Yitzi, the Trusty Tractor; Until the Blueberries Grow; and My Hands Make the World. The app offers a seven-day free trial and can be used in a web browser or on devices connected to the Apple App Store or Google Play.

Enjoy a Story

In addition to The Friday Nights of Nana, here are some other special Shabbat stories featuring beautiful moments between children and grandparents:


The Bagel King book cover

The Bagel King

by Andrew Larsen

Recommended for ages 6 to 7

Every Sunday, Eli’s zaida (Hebrew for “grandfather”) picks up bagels at Merv’s Bakery for his friends. But when Zaida hurts his tuches, he can’t make the trip to Merv’s. Will he and his friends still have Sunday bagels?

Bubbie & Rivka’s Best-Ever Challah (So Far!) book cover

Bubbie & Rivka’s Best-Ever Challah (So Far!)

by Sarah Lynne Reul

Recommended for ages 4 to 5

Bubbie and Rivka want to bake challah, the traditional braided bread eaten on Shabbat. Too bad neither of them know how! Luckily, Shabbat comes around every week, so there are plenty of opportunities for them to try and try again.

Lights Out Shabbat book cover

Lights Out Shabbat

by Sarene Shulimson

Recommended for ages 3 to 4

A young boy visiting his grandparents for Shabbat has a wonderful time despite (or maybe because of) a rare Georgia snowstorm that causes the power to go out.

Until the Blueberries Grow boo cover

Until the Blueberries Grow

by Jennifer Wolf Kam

Recommended for ages 6 to 7

Until the blueberries grow … until the grapes are ripe … until the snow falls … until the flowers bloom … Ben tries to convince his great-grandfather to stay in his house just a little longer as the two celebrate a yearly cycle of Jewish holidays together.


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