Minnie’s Yom Kippur Birthday

by Marilyn Singer, illustrated by Ruth Rosner, New York: Harper & Row, 1989 32pp., $12.95 ages 4-8

Minnie’s parents tell her that her fifth birthday will be different — and wonderful in its own way — because this year it happens to fall on Yom Kippur.

As told by Minnie, with all the curiosity, freshness, and anticipation that a five-year-old brings to the celebration of a birthday surprise, this story of her first visit to a temple also captures the symbols and the meanings of the rich heritage of “the day we set aside to become a better person.”

The straightforward text by Marilyn Singer has a satisfying balance of tension, frustration, humor and resolution. The words are complemented by Ruth Rosner’s light and finely-detailed water color and pen illustrations to give an immediacy to the story, as well as depth to the Yom Kippur traditions as Minnie perceives and makes sense of them. Minnie’s experience also includes comfortable non-sexist role models of mother, father, cantor and rabbi.

Though one wonders why Minnie had to wait till age five to be introduced to a Jewish house of prayer, we can be glad that she finally did, and that we can go along with her.