Baxter is sitting at the bus stop, when a man tells him about the joys of Shabbat. It sounds like fun to Baxter - a special dinner, singing, and being with loved ones. When Baxter returns to the bus stop, a different man is waiting and says he knows all about Shabbat...but Baxter could never be part of Shabbat dinner. He's not kosher!
Baxter sets out to make himself kosher. He tries kosher pickles, raisin challah, and even attempts to become a cow! But everyone tells him a pig can never be kosher...until he meets a friendly rabbi. She explains that being kosher would mean Baxter would get eaten! But as a friend he's welcome to Shabbat dinner.
The book ends with a brief explanation of what a Shabbat dinner is all about and the Jewish tradition of inviting strangers to share the meal. There's also a glossary of the various terms used in the story - kosher, mitzvah, rabbit, etc. I really appreciated that the glossary was written in a friendly, fun style so younger kids could understand the explanations.
This story is an excellent introduction to several major elements of Jewish tradition and culture. Some of Baxter's exchanges with various people at the bus stop feel a little forced, but the open and friendly style of the book balances it. I've been looking at various books introducing different elements of religous and cultural groups and this one, I think, is the best I've seen so far. It doesn't talk down to the reader, but doesn't make any assumptions about prior knowledge. Everything is clearly explained in a humorous, lighthearted manner and it's suitable for wide variety of ages - a lot of these books I've looked at have way too much text, but this one is just right. The illustrations are cartoons in pen, collage, and digital. Not my personal favorite, but they did fit the story well.
Verdict: I'd strongly recommend this for your collection whether or not you have a Jewish demographic in your area. It's a good introduction for kids (and parents) who know nothing about Jewish culture but also for kids who may have Jewish friends or neighbors and are curious about how dietary laws work, which is one of the more visible aspects of Jewish religion.
ISBN: 9781582463155; Published August 2010 by Tricycle Press; Borrowed from the library