You're not alone if you don't know much about Shemini Atzeret, the holiday immediately after the seven-day festival of Sukkot. Since many people are unfamiliar with Shemini Atzeret, the Book Selection Committee was thrilled to find Maya Prays for Rain, a delightful picture book that introduces readers and their families to this special day.
Off to deliver homework to a sick friend, Maya runs into neighbors who are all enjoying activities in the unseasonably warm and sunny weather. When Maya realizes that today is Shemini Atzeret, the Jewish holiday where people traditionally pray for rain, she quickly backtracks to warn everyone about an impending storm. Maya fears she may be too late-–the clothes have been hung on the clothes line, the butterflies have been released, and the baseball game is in motion. Luckily, Maya’s rabbi informs her that one prays for the rain to fall in Israel, not Maya’s neighborhood.
Another aspect of Maya Prays for Rain that the Book Selection Committee appreciated is the cultural diversity of Maya’s neighborhood. From Mrs. Cisneros to the Papadakis family, to Nadia Ali--the names alone tell us that Maya’s neighbors (or their ancestors) hail from different countries, creating a richly varied community. There is an alarming dearth of multicultural content in children’s books--in 2013, only 10% of children’s books published contained multicultural content. We strongly suspect that this figure may be even lower for Jewish children’s books. This is why, as a committee, we are excited to discover books that incorporate Jewish stories and themes alongside diverse families and communities.
September 1, 2016