A Snowman in Jerusalem

Aaron Zevy, illustrated by Jeric Tan

Publisher: Tumbleweed Press Pages: (paperback) $11.99 Price: 24 ISBN: 9781778201776 Reviewed: October, 2023 Author Website: Visit »

An 8-year-old Jewish girl living in Israel dreams of seeing snow – and hangs on every word of her father, who insists, “Of course it snows in Israel. But only in Jerusalem” – in this vibrant picture book featuring a chatty, charming heroine. Pnina introduces herself with crayon drawings of her house, family and hometown of Beit Shemesh, 30 miles outside Jerusalem. However, it’s a photograph of her father that captivates her. Taken in Canada when he was 8, he shows off a snowman he built “with his own two hands.”

He tells her that building a snowman is easy, but she wonders: “It doesn’t look easy. But my Abba never lies so it must be true.” Pnina’s belief it must be true is the story’s compelling hinge. Abba convinces Pnina that it snows in Jerusalem, yet when she tells her best friend she’s labeled meshugah, “Jewish for crazy.” As months go by, Pnina harbors both hope and doubt until the night she’s unexpectedly awakened for a late visit to her grandparents in Jerusalem. There, as Abba promised, she sees snow: “it fell like stardust, sparkled and fell in impossibly big flakes.”

Jeric Tan’s splendid digital illustrations are as vivid as Pnina’s descriptive narrative, leaning heavily into an orange/purple color palette that echoes Pnina’s sunny personality and deepens the magic of a snowy winter night.

Unfortunately, the text is wordy, too dense for 6- to 8-year-olds, with tangents – one about Pnina’s father cooking cholent – that derail the story’s powerful tug: Will it snow in Jerusalem? Zevy’s writing is pitched to adults (dad jokes about Pat Sajak will go over children’s heads), and midway through, the tense inexplicably changes from present to past.

The end, however, is redeemed by a helpful Hebrew glossary and photographs that provide proof that yes, Pnina, there is snowfall in Jerusalem.

Also available as an ebook.

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