Life Is Like a Library has had a run of "less than ultimate" books. "Using our gift to only uplift," we try to stay positive in this space, so with the deadline looming, we were worried if we would have something to share for this month's Jewish Book Carnival. When all else fails, CHOCOLATE! Actually Green Beans, as we feature two recent books by this British publisher.
Babka, Boulou & Blintzes: Jewish Chocolate Recipes from Around the World (Green Bean Books, 2021) will be out later this month. Michael Leventhal compiled this collection of all things chocolate. The introduction discusses the history of chocolate and the Jewish connection. In the 1500s, Jewish traders in Spain "starting playing a key role in the creation and expansion of the chocolate market." These traders fled to France from the Spanish Inquisition, and Bayonne became the "chocolate capital of France." The recipes are organized by Cookies, Bars & Brownies; Cakes, Loaves & Tarts; Savory Dishes & Drinks, Hot & Cold Desserts; and Bonbons, Bites & After-Dinner Delights. Leventhal helpfully includes a glossary of UK-US terms and a note on measurements, so us non-Brits finally know that what the Brits call caster sugar is regular white sugar. Many talented people contributed recipes to the book, including Amy Krtizer Becker from What Jew Wanna Eat, foodie Joan Nathan, and Orly Ziv. Even better, all sales of the book help raise money for Chai Cancer Care.
Besides chocolate, baking, and eating baked goods with coffee, one of our favorite things is Jewish children's books based on Talmudic stories, and Green Bean came through again with Naama Benziman's Lenny and Benny (Green Bean Books, 2021). Originally published in Israel as Noni and Noni-Yoteir (Morris and Morris-More), it is based on the story of Kamtza and Bar Kamtza (Babylonian Talmud - Gittin 55B). Lenny and Benny are two rabbits that started as friends, but became not so friendly. When Benny has his birthday party, Lenny is accidentally sent an invitation and shows up. Benny wants him to leave. Lenny, much like Bar Kamtza, offers to help with the party, but Benny refuses and kicks out the humiliated Lenny. In this children's book, the story ends happily and Lenny and Benny reconcile. In the Talmud, Bar Kamtza exacts revenge by spreading rumors about the party host and his guests, which ultimately leads to the destruction of the Second Temple. The blue and red illustrations provide a simple complement to the heart-felt text, and I love the double fold out of Benny's party.