Cakes and Miracles: A Purim Tale

Author: Barbara Diamond Goldin

Illustrator/Photographer: Jaime Zollars

Publisher and Year: Marshall Cavendish Corporation, 2010

Number of Pages: 30 pages

Genre: Realistic Fiction

This book is a storybook of a tale based on the Jewish holiday, Purim, which celebrates the biblical story of Ester. The main character, Hershel, is a blind boy that uses his imagination and special talents to help his mother bake cookies to sell at the local market for the Purim holiday. I believe that this story serves as a door because regardless of Hershel’s blindness, he has the opportunity to accomplish the same exact activities as people who can see. At the same time, the story serves as a window into the Jewish tradition by exposing and explaining to the reader the importance of the Purim holiday.

In the beginning of the story, Hershel was not given much power because he was blind and doubted by his mother. After Hershel’s visit by the angel, he gained power by proving he was helping his mother make beautiful cookies even though he could not physically see them. This story represents two cultures: the Jewish religion and people with disabilities. Purim is an important holiday that celebrates the survival of the Jews from persecution. This book honors and exposes the reader to the Jewish tradition and culture that might be unknown to many people. In addition, this story highlights the community of people with disabilities. Hershel was able to complete a task that was not “normal” for a blind child. For the reader, this book breaks the social norm that people with disabilities are incapable of contributing to the community. This story has shaped my understanding of culture by broadening my understanding of a new Jewish tradition that I was not familiar with. Through the illustrations, I was able to see interpretations of the Purim holiday, such as the cookies that are baked. In addition, the story illustrates a synagogue. By adding a picture of the synagogue, the reader is able to connect with the message of the story and emerge in the Jewish holiday of Purism visually as well as textually.

Perceptually, the text is on one side of the page suggesting the image is more important than the text. All images are unframed and close up which allows the reader to engage that much more into the story. The opening sentences of the story boldly state Hershel does things as the normal children do, foreshadowing that disability does not make a person with a disability incapable of every day tasks. Structurally, Jewish symbols such as the Star of David and menorah are used to honor and understand the Jewish culture. The mud symbolizes Hershel’s imagination and ability to have creativity. Dull and simple colors are used in the images, which can explain the hardship of Basha, Hershel’s mother, to take on both roles as a mother and father. It can also represent Hershel’s blindness of him not being able to see, but also explains the simplicity he experiences except in his dreams. In addition, the visual images of Hershel completing chores show he does not let disability stop him. The author of the book conveys these themes in the story through Hershel: disability does not limit an individual, holidays bring families and communities closer, and i imagination with determination can bring success.IMG_2812IMG_2811

Grandpa’s Soup

Title: Grandpa’s Soup


Author: Eiko Kadono

Illustrator/Photographer: Satomi Ichikawa

Publisher and Year: Kaisei-Sha Publishing Co. and 1997

Number of pages: 31 pgs

Tags: Olivia Simkins, Fantasy, Fiction, 2-3, Culture, Picture Book, Fable

Genre: Fable


This book is about an old man whose wife passes away. He wakes up one day and decides to make the soup his wife used to make for him. As he makes the soup he realizes that he forgets a step and day by day and makes the soup over and over again until it is just right. Along the way he shares his soup with 3 mice, a cat, a dog and 9 children.

This story could function as a window because this book was originally published in Japanese and later was translated to English. With that being said, the audience can look into a different culture. The audience can see that in this man’s culture, his wife used to make him this special soup. In having him recreate this soup, the soup brings back memories of his wife and it shows how important it is to the old man to get the soup just right. It could also serve as a mirror from some readers. Some may read this story and relate their own lives to the old man’s. The text may remind them of a special dish one of their family members or friends make for them. This text does a good job of including different races and cultures throughout the book. Even though the words don’t ever really specify a certain culture the illustrations do.

The text in this book always appears to be on the opposite side of the picture until the second to last image when the children are sharing the soup with the cat, dog, mice and the man. This invites the audience to be a part of the story, as if the audience were sharing the soup along with the characters in the story. Also, in the very beginning of the story, the colors are very symbolic of the emotions conveyed in the story. The colors started out dark to show that the grandpa is very lonely and sad. As the story goes on the color get brighter and brighter to show his mood improving as he makes the soup better and better. This story could evoke the belief that the grandpa must share his soup with everyone else, leaving him to have a little portion of what he has made. Some may view this as a socialist view. Socialism is where the wealth or good is distributed between the community and every gets a “fair” share of anything and everything.