Book Review: A Yom Tov Book of Poems—Tishrei Tales by Rabbi Reuven Bauman (Menucha Publishers 2019)
Reviewed by Rebecca Klempner
This past July, the Jewish world mourned a wonderful educator, Rabbi Reuven Bauman, who perished as he rescued one of his students in the waters off Norfolk, Virginia. The previous year, Menucha Publishers* had published Rabbi Bauman’s middle-grade novel, Yanky’s Amazing Discovery, and just weeks before his death, Rabbi Bauman had submitted another manuscript to the publisher. That book, A Yom Tov Book of Poems—Tishrei Tales, has just been released.
This poetry collection focuses on the major holidays of Tishrei: Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and Sukkos. Whether they be bitter or sweet, the characters in Rabbi Bauman’s narrative poems experience plentiful emotions. There’s boredom, excitement, concern, disappointment, and mischievousness aplenty.
While the overall tone of the book is humorous, at several moments, the characters experience familiar challenges: the melancholy at the end of a fun summer, the loss of a beloved item, rain threatening on Erev Sukkos. As one of the characters says (p. 33), “Life’s not always easy/You must put in your best effort,/And doing the right thing,/Well, sometimes it might hurt.” Rabbi Bauman assures us that there’s always a reward for these efforts; however, it may not be visible immediately or in this world.
A Yom Tov Book of Poems starts off with a beautifully written Editor’s Note, describing an interaction Esther Heller had with Rabbi Bauman, in which he promotes poetry for children. The illustrations, by Sarah Zee, are both playful and heartfelt. The book closes with a short biography of the author, appropriate for young readers (meaning: it doesn’t mention his tragic death) and a touching poem about him by his family members. I think this book would make a lovely yom tov purchase for a family with young children, and it would also make a wonderful addition to a Jewish classroom library.
* For full disclosure: Menucha Publishers has published two of my own books.