The Sundown Kid A Southwestern Shabbat by Barbara Bietz and illustrated by John Kanzler is a story about a Jewish family living in the Wild West. The author’s note states “The setting of this story, the Wild West, has historical relevance. Many Jews settled in Western states in the 1800’s and early 1900’s to established businesses, schools, and synagogues. The communities were small and Jewish families were well integrated, living and working with non-Jewish families, while maintaining their religious values”.
The story begins with a Jewish family’s voyage via train out to the Wild West. The family left their home, close family and tight knit community to seek a more prosperous way of life. Since room was limited, the family only took their prized possessions, which were silver candlesticks, Papa’s kiddish cup and Mama’s big soup pot. Upon moving to the desert town, Mama wanted to keep with the tradition of making chicken soup for Shabbat on Fridays. Each week Mama made a big pot of soup, but there was always too much soup and few people. Mama would say, “Too much soup, not enough family”. Week after week, Mama became sadder because she missed her family and longed for the family Shabbat dinner that she had at her previous home. The young boy in the family decided to take this manner in his own hands by inviting the members of his community including the blacksmith, the owners of the general store and the sheriff of the town. On that Friday night, three families showed up to celebrate Shabbat together and share the large pot of delicious chicken soup.
The Sundown Kid A Southwestern Shabbat is an interesting book because it not only gives a brief history of the Wild West from the perspective of a Jewish family, but also includes the lesson of joining together with your community and sharing your traditions and customs together, regardless of what religion you may be. I also enjoyed that the boy recognized his mothers feelings and instead of being passive, he became an active member of the family to help his mother feel better about their new home. This book was recognized as a Notable Book for Young Readers by the Sydney Taylor Awards Committee. To learn more about this award, click here
Are you a teacher? Check out The Sundown Kid Teaching Guide Common Core
Check out this video located on Barbara Bietz’s website to learn more about the book.
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