Cover Reveal: Soosie: The Horse That Saved Shabbat by Tami Lehman-Wilzig, illustrated by Menahem Halberstadt
There is no common denominator between bakeries, horses, and Israel, but for me, each one has a special connection. You can imagine my excitement of being able to thread the three together into one book! But first, here’s my quirky backstory.
Growing up, once upon a time, on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, a bakery was a warm, loving home away from home, with a unique ambience. The Cake Masters was our neighborhood bakery. Its owners knew which cookies were my favorites, and which cakes made my mother’s mouth water. And the Friday Challah! The aroma was intoxicating. It enveloped my entire being, prompting me to count the hours until the Shabbat (sabbath) meal would begin, so I could gobble up slice after slice.
There were no horses in Manhattan, except for those that led the tourist carriages through Central Park and up Fifth Avenue. But Manhattan didn’t stay my home. My husband and I moved to Israel as a young couple and when we became parents of two active boys in need of calming activities, I discovered the benefits of horse therapy. For a Manhattanite, this was akin to treading in unchartered waters, but I quickly warmed to the idea when I witnessed the special bond, mutual sense of loyalty, and support that ensued from grooming, feeding, and riding an equine friend.
And then of course, there’s Israel, my home for the past 43 years. From the time I made my first visit at the tender age of 17, I knew this was the country for me. The whole country celebrated Shabbat – not just my immediate neighborhood. The whole nation lived by the same calendar, not just my synagogue. And the Jewish values I was taught at home were practiced everywhere. Then I became a writer and set my sights on a specific goal – writing stories that reflect Jewish values without being preachy, and when I can, making Israel the setting.
My new book, Soosie: The Horse That Saved Shabbat combines all of the above – the family feel of a bakery with its mouth-watering aroma of challah, a loveable, loyal horse, Israel’s famous city of gold – its capital, Jerusalem – and the special atmosphere of the Shabbat day. It’s also a wonderful example of how a writer can be inspired by one sentence. Years ago, I read an article on the history of Angel Bakery – Israel’s largest bakery chain. The write-up explained that the company’s humble beginnings took place in Jerusalem in the early 20th century, long before cars ruled the road. Prior to becoming a bakery, the operation began as a delivery service for baking flour. One day the delivery boy didn’t show up and the owner didn’t know what to do. But Jerusalem back then was a small town and the owner quickly realized that the horse that pulled the wagon knew the route, so he sent the riderless horse on its way.
I read that line and said to myself: that’s a children’s story! But one line doesn’t make a tale, and I had a lot of work to do. I filed the story, which eventually found itself near the bottom of a pile. Spring cleaning a few years ago brought me back to that line. By now I had several decades under my belt comparing Israeli bakeries to Cake Masters. My sons had graduated horse therapy and were equine lovers…and me? I’m a Shabbat freak and I love my country. I look for every opportunity to share this special Jewish day of rest and my love for the Jewish state. When I revisited the line from that article, inspiration suddenly hit. A story was born connecting the dots. I created the name Soosie by turning the Hebrew word for horse – soos – into a name of endearment meaning “my horse.” I’m happy to share my horse Soosie with all of my readers and thrilled to share the cover of Soosie: The Horse That Saved Shabbat with the Nerdy Book Club.
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Tami Lehman-Wilzig is an award-winning, Jewish content children’s book author. She lives in Israel, in the city of Kfar Saba, which literally means Grandpa’s Village. Her grandson thinks that’s a fine name but her granddaughter wants to know why the city isn’t called Kfar Savta – Grandma’s Village. Who knows? Maybe that will inspire Tami to write another book. In the meantime, Soosie: The Horse That Saved Shabbat is Tami’s twelfth book. You can find Tami online on Facebook and at tlwkidsbooks.com/.
Menahem Halberstadt is an experienced freelance illustrator, cartoonist, and art director. He lives in Israel with his wife and children. Menahem can be found online at Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and menahemhalberstadt.com.
Soosie: The Horse That Saved Shabbat will be published on March 2, 2021 by Kalaniot Books, an imprint of Endless Mountains Publishing. To learn more about this book and other great books for Jewish kids, go to kalaniotbooks.com/.
At Kalaniot Books, our mission is to help parents expose their children to the rich mosaic of Jewish culture and history. Through our list of exciting and engaging picture books, we hope to entertain, instill pride in, and demonstrate the diversity of this truly dynamic community. Our imprint’s name is inspired by the fragile wild poppies, or “kalaniot” that bloom on the hillsides of Israel in the spring. With careful planning and cultivation, these beautiful flowers have continued to flourish from generation to generation. It is our hope that these books become a tool for families to explore this vibrant culture. In this way, from generation to generation, Jewish culture will continue to flourish as well.
The book sounds great, love the cover! The challah looks yummy!