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Going Beyond The Book - Reviews of Jewish children's books
Using Literature to Build Jewish Values in Your Children

The Jewish children's book 'The Sukkah That I Built'
Let's go "Beyond the Book" with
The Sukkah That I Built

Ages 0-7

The Sukkah That I Built is the newest, cutest, cleverest and most enchanting Sukkot book for the young child. It follows the same format as the House That Jack Built-by adding and repeating the actions that build to the final finished product-the finished sukkah.

It starts from the simple sentence ‘This is the sukkah that I built’ and continues to more complex ideas:

These are the poles that can barely be seen
All covered with schach so leafy and green
That’s piled near the hammer that I got to use
To bang all the nails that I did not lose
Right into the boards for each sukkah wall
Standing next to the ladder so sturdy and tall
That helped with the sukkah that I built etc......

It is a good practice to use the structure of the sukkah to build a sequence of events that allows the child to anticipate what comes next . And because it is done with rhyme and lyricism, this book acts as an aide to focus on the sequence of details necessary for memorization. I believe a bi-product of The Sukkah That I Built, is that it aids in stimulating important neurological pathways in brain development.

There is another unique aspect to the book and that is that the key words - ladder, tools, etc, are printed in the same color on every page much like piece of a puzzle waiting to be discovered and put into the right place. Therefore, the non-reader can identify words just by color and say the word aloud, while he or she is being read to. That makes the pre-reader feel safe to help “read” along with the adult.

The artist wisely made the pictures easy for the child to identify with-for on each page, with closer examination, we can see our little sukkah builder with true reality. He says he is using the hammer, when actually his father is using it and he is just holding on to the handle. He is climbing the ladder, but his mother is right behind him. Still, it is fun to think that when you are little, you have been useful in getting ready for a holiday -it makes a child feel that he or she “belongs” and that only happens through participation-real or even imagined.

To go beyond the book with The Sukkah That I Built reminded me of a Hassidic tale about a man who was sent to his Rebbe to learn humility. Arriving at his destination, he naturally knocked at the door. “Who is it “ asked the voice from inside. “It is I” was the response. Over and over he always answered “It is I” to the Rebbe’s question. One day, he was a guest at a wedding of a very prestigious family. When the silver was counted, which was a common practice, it was discovered that an important serving piece was missing and he was accused of taking it. Being falsely accused, he now answered vehemently “Not I” “Not I” "Not I”

The child’s world is a world of “I” and that is natural, but the seeds of the next level just might be planted when at the end of the book our hero says:

Standing next to the ladder so sturdy and tall
Which reaches the tools way up on the shelf
That helped with the sukkah…
That WE built!

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