Friday, September 18, 2009

New Year at the Pier: A Rosh Hashanah Story by April Halprin Wayland - Book Review


"Tashlich is the time we apologize for things we wish we hadn't done. Tashlich means to throw. We throw away things we don't like or don't need. Tashlich is like cleaning your heart's closet. A new year, a clean heart." - New Year at the Pier: A Rosh Hashanah Story by April Halprin Wayland, illustrated by Stéphane Jorisch
This weekend, groups of people will gather together at the water's edge and throw pieces of bread into the water. While it might look as if they are feeding the ducks or seagulls, they're not. They're participating in the Rosh Hashanah ceremony of Tashlich, a symbolic practice where they "cast off" the previous year's sins. Beginning at sundown tonight, Friday, Sept. 18, and continuing through Sunday, Jews celebrate Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. Tashlich is one part of the Rosh Hashanah celebrations.

April Halprin Wayland's newest picture book New Year at the Pier: A Rosh Hashanah Story introduces children to the ceremony of Tashlich and teaches about forgiveness and making amends. In preparation for Tashlich, a little boy called Izzy makes an "I'm sorry" list by drawing pictures of four things that he's sorry for doing. On Rosh Hashanah, he sincerely apologizes to his sister, mother and others that he had wronged during the year. He follows members of his synagogue as they all make their way to the pier. After listening to the sound of the shofars, he reflects upon what he has done wrong and throws pieces of bread into the ocean's waters.

Stéphane Jorisch successfully captures the solitude of the ceremony, the quiet reflection, and the sense of community in his beautiful watercolor and gouache illustrations. Wayland's text has this wonderful, lilting quality, accurately depicting the uplifting, spiritual aspects of Tashlich. You can tell that Tashlich is her favorite tradition.

I admit I didn't know much about Rosh Hashanah before reading this picture book. New Year at the New Pier provides a touching introduction to the Jewish New Year and, in particular, the tradition of Tashlich. Before reading the book, I talked to my preschool daughter about different holidays, and I told her that this book describes a tradition where people take the time to apologize to each other. The important lessons of apology and empathy aren't ones that are easily learned, but Izzy provides an excellent role model for all children, no matter their religion. My daughter's favorite part of the book is where Izzy's mother apologizes to him for always being on the phone. Hmmm...wonder if that is a subtle hint? Izzy has the hardest time apologizing to his best friend, and the actions he takes show children how they can reconcile with their own friends. While my daughter and I appreciate and understand Izzy's story, I imagine that children that have experienced the actual ceremony would especially enjoy reading the book. Teachers and librarians may find the book useful in their discussions about New Year celebrations or religious celebrations.

After reading the book, my daughter and I were curious how people observe Tashlich if they don't live near a body of water. Wayland provided an interesting response,

"When my friend Diane lived in Kansas, she put out an old clawfoot bathtub in the yard for the kids in her synagogue class. They wrote what they regretted doing on slips of paper and then walked around the tub singing songs and tossing the pieces of paper into the tub. (She said that they liked this so much, they ran back to write out more "sins" to throw in!)"

Special terms or phrases related to the Jewish New Year discussed in this book:
Rosh Hashanah
Tashlich
L'shanah tovah
Avinu Malkenu
Shofar

Author April Halprin Wayland regularly contributes to Teaching Authors, a blog where six children's book authors share writing tips, exercises, author interviews and other useful information with aspiring and experienced children's book writers.

New Year at the Pier: A Rosh Hashanah Story by April Halprin Wayland, illustrated by Stéphane Jorisch. Dial Books for Young Readers; (June 2009); 32 pages; ISBN 9780803732797; Ages 5-8
Book Source: Review copy provided for free by Dial Books for Young Readers (View my full disclosure statement for more information about my reviews.)

Related links:
April Halprin Wayland - Author Website
About the book - Penguin.com
About.com - Tashlich and Rosh Hashanah
The Beach Reporter Article - "Local author’s book shows power of new beginnings"

View the New Year at the Pier book trailer on YouTube:

2 comments:

Chris R said...

Happy Rosh Hashanah from someone with no religious affiliation.

Warmest wishes and a prosperous year.

LadyD said...

I love picture books! The music on the trailer is wonderful. I shall read of Izzy's world. Thanks for your very informative post. Great job!