Big Sam: A Rosh Hashanah Tall Tale
By Eric A. Kimmel
Illustrated by Jim Starr
Hardcover, 32pp, $17.95
Samson the Giant — Big Sam to his friends — looked at the calendar.
"It's almost time for Rosh Hashanah, the New Year. I'd better get started."
How does Big Sam make a GIANT-sized challah for Rosh Hashanah?
He digs an enormous hole in the ground to use as a mixing bowl. (It's still there today — we call it the Grand Canyon.)
He adds mountains of flour, thousands of eggs, and other good things.
He whittles a massive California redwood tree into a mixing spoon. He flattens the hills of West Texas as he kneads the dough. And he bakes it inside Mount Saint Helens.
But when it's time to celebrate the holiday, the eagles call out, "Not so fast, Big Sam!" Rosh Hashanah is about fixing the world, and Big Sam has some MAJOR cleaning up to do.
Reviews for Big Sam: A Rosh Hashanah Tall Tale
Category: Picture Books
"Big Sam is the rollicking Jewish answer to Paul Bunyan. When Rosh Hashanah comes around, he digs a big hole (today’s Grand Canyon) in which he begins to mix up a challah recipe. He whittles a California redwood tree into a mixing spoon, and when the dough is finished, he sets it to rise in Yellowstone Park, where the geysers keep the ground warm and steamy. The challah finishes baking right on schedule for the holiday, but wait—not so fast. Time for a little tikkun olam. Big Sam’s baking has left a giant-sized mess, with trampled fields, dammed-up rivers, and the like. Now he must put the world to right again, which he does, just in time to see in the new year with his friends. This book is nothing but pure fun from beginning to end, with a gentle environmental lesson thrown in. Kimmel’s tall tale is perfect for reading aloud, and soft, evocative illustrations that show the grandeur of an old-time American landscape are a perfect match. A cross-country map of the country as endpaper is a bonus. Matching Rosh Hashanah with an appreciation of the natural world is an inspired choice."
Jewish Book Council
"Paul Bunyan gets some competition in a story that introduces Big Sam, a towering Jewish man who digs the Grand Canyon to create a mixing bowl to make challah for Rosh Hashanah. In his first picture book, Starr brings an appropriately cinematic look to the pages as Big Sam carves a spoon from a California redwood, lets the dough rise in the geysers of Yellowstone, and holds up a fallen railroad bridge to allow trains through (including the one carrying two boxcars’ worth of poppy seeds that he needs). Kimmel (Little Red Rosie) tells the story leisurely, having fun with the ways Big Sam uses American landmarks in his baking. In a neat merging of the concept of tikkun olam and an environmental message, Big Sam repairs some of the havoc his actions have caused after a pair of bald eagles bring it to his attention. Closing cameos from Paul Bunyan, Pecos Bill, John Henry, and other legendary figures (someone has to eat all that challah) show just how well a Jewish hero fits into the American folktale landscape."