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The Picture Book Buzz

The Babka Sisters - Perfect Picture Book Friday #PPBF

One of my favorite books when my kids were little was I Love You The Purplest, with two different brothers determined to figure out which one Mom loved the most. It's solution is as representative of family peace and love as the ending in this book. A book that celebrates the love and differences of two sisters.

The Babka Sisters

Author: Lesléa Newman

Illustrator: Tika and Tata Bobokhidze

Publisher: Kar-Ben Publishing (2023)

Ages: 7-8



Sisters, competition, baking babka, shabbat, and welcoming neighbors.


The great babka bake-off is on! Esther and Hester’s new neighbor, Sylvester, will gladly be their babka tester, and decide which sister’s Babka is the best. With cat Lester and dog Chester, the new friends enjoy a delicious Shabbat.

Opening Lines:

Esther and Hester were sisters who

lived next door to each other and

adored each other.

"You're a doll," called Esther to Hester.

"You're a peach," called Hester to Esther.

And that's the way it was.

What I LIKED about this book:

From the beginning, we get a sense of the sister's affection for each other and the wonderfully colorful, folksy style of the digital and hand drawn illustrations, enhanced by the beautiful textures and patterns in the clothing, wallpaper, flooring, and lace curtains, hint at the different personalities of the sisters. Although the sisters are adults (they do live in their own homes, cook, and drink wine), their height (compared to their neighbor), mannerisms, and expressions feel more child-like.

Text © Lesléa Newman, 2023. Image © Tika and Tata Bobokhidze, 2023.

Although Esther and Hester are loving sisters, they are also a bit competitive. When a new neighbor moves in across the street, each sister is determined to bake him the best babka for Shabbat. So challenging each other, they head to their kitchens - Esther with her cat Lester and Hester with her dog Chester - starting "the great Babka Bake-Off."

Text © Lesléa Newman, 2023. Image © Tika and Tata Bobokhidze, 2023.

I really enjoyed how the spot illustrations simplified some of the steps in making babka and the differences in the kitchen's appearances and smells - one that "smelled like a celebration" and one that "smelled like a holiday." Though, since most holidays are celebrations, one might wonder just how different the babkas are from each other. I also enjoyed the personality which Tika and Tata Bobokhidze gave to Lester and Chester - each self-assured companion is fiercely protective of their special human. And they are also perfect mirrors of the sister's emotions.

Text © Lesléa Newman, 2023. Image © Tika and Tata Bobokhidze, 2023.

In response to the racket of two quarrelling sisters, a yowling cat, and a growling dog, the new neighbor Sylvester opens his door, greets them, and agrees to be their babka tester. I can think of many worse jobs. And it turns out that Sylvester is able to decide which shvester (Yiddish for sister) makes the best babka..... It's the perfect solution which leads to a happy Shabbat celebration.

Joyful and active, with a lot of rhyming names, this culinary story is a feast of loving sisterhood, friendship, and generosity. And a possible jumping off point for a sequel on "the great Kugel cook-off." The book ends with a twenty-step, three page recipe for Babka and a short glossary.


- if you welcomed someone new to your neighborhood or building what food would you take to them?

- what do you think of Sylvester's solution? How would you have solved the contest?

- pair this with I Love You the Purplest by Barbara M. Joosse, illustrated by Mary Whyte and Chik Chak Shabbat

by Mara Rockliff, illustrated by Kyrsten Brooker.

If you missed the interview with Lesléa Newman on Monday, find it (here).

This post is part of a series by authors and KidLit bloggers called Perfect Picture Book Fridays. For more picture book suggestions and resources see Susanna Leonard Hill's Perfect Picture Books.


Maria Marshall

 Photograph © A. Marshall

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