Simply 7 with Charlotte Offsay: CHALLAH DAY

Did you know that it’s almost Challah Day?  Well today’s picture book celebrates just that.

OffsayPhotoByNataliaLPhotographyCharlotte Offsay has visited my blog several times.  Charlotte Offsay was born in England, grew up in Boston, and currently lives in Los Angeles with her husband and two small children. She is the author of The Quiet Forest, illustrated by Abi Cushman (Paula Wiseman Books, 2024), Challah Day!, illustrated by Jason Kirschner (Holiday House, 2023), A Grandma’s Magic, illustrated by Asa Gilland (Doubleday Books for Young Readers, April 2022), The Big Beach Cleanup, illustrated by Kate Rewse (Albert Whitman, 2021), and How to Return a Monster, illustrated by Rea Zhai (Beaming Books, 2021). She enjoys baking Challah with her two children every Friday. You can learn more about Charlotte at her website or follow her on Twitter and on Instagram.

Cover_ChallahDayCHALLAH DAY is a delightful romp that sounds a lot like a cheerleader’s chant.  The main character is thrilled about the making and baking of Challah bread and her exuberance bounces through the story to the reader.  This is a story you’re going to want to see for yourself.

Welcome back Charlotte!

Me: I love the word play in the title and the unbridled enthusiasm of the main character in the story.  What gave you the idea for this book?

Charlotte: Thank you, Jena, for your kind words. I am so happy to hear that you enjoyed the book! Challah Day! was actually the first manuscript I ever wrote and it started me on my publishing journey. I enjoyed making challah with my children so much that I wrote them a story about it, complete with pictures of them as the illustrations. It brought me so much joy to create and share with my kids what was then called Challah – Made with Love, so I decided to take an introduction to picture book writing class through UCLA and the rest of my writing journey is history. Making challah with my kids is still one of my very favorite things to do and I hope the book encourages other families to embrace the messy delicious sweetness that comes from baking together as a family. 

Me: So to clarify for non-Jewish readers (like me), is Challah day something that is celebrated every week on Friday night?

Charlotte: Challah is a sweet braided egg bread that is enjoyed as part of welcoming Shabbat each week. Shabbat begins on Friday night at sundown and ends when three stars appear in the sky on Saturday night. We make challah to enjoy on Shabbat, but we also have a lot of fun making it for various other holidays.  We have made…

Menorah challah on Hanukkah:


Dreidel challah also for Hanukkah:


Apple challah for Rosh Hashana:


Turkey challah for Thanksgiving:


Heart challah for Valentine’s Day:


Me: Oh my gosh!  You’re kids must love baking with you!  The rhyming text is almost like a song or a chant.  It’s so succinct and SO energetic!  How many revisions did it take to get the text this well-honed?  Was it always like this?

Charlotte: What a lovely complement! While the heart of the story, a joyful ode to a timeless tradition, remains the same as that original story I wrote for my children all those years ago, this manuscript went through A LOT of revisions – too many to count. First, I attempted to write this story in rhyme before learning what went into creating a traditionally published picture book, let alone the requirements of writing in meter. It took me a long time and a lot of classes to figure out how to pull a picture book together, and taking Renée LaTulippe’s Lyrical Language Lab for me to learn how to write in rhyme.

Over the years I showed various versions of the manuscript to people who would try to convince me to work it into something different. I tried turning Challah Day! into a narrative story or adding different layers but the story demanded to be told in upbeat rhyming text that mirrored my own joyful baking experience with my family, and never really worked for me in any other format. It was actually my husband who was the biggest champion of Challah Day! in its true form. He encouraged me to pull it out of the drawer time and time again, to continue working on it, and eventually show it to my agent. Without him the book wouldn’t exist. But yes, all this to say I worked on it for years and years before it made its way to Holiday House.

Challah Day!Spread1

Reproduced with permission from Holiday House Publishing, Inc. Text copyright © 2023 by Charlotte Offsay. Illustrations copyright © 2023 by Jason Kirschner. All Rights Reserved.

Me:  Wow.  What a journey!  You left plenty of room for the illustrator to work and Jason Kirschner took that ball and ran with it!  I love the dog.  Did you have any illustration notes?  Or did the illustrator use creative license?

Charlotte: Since the text is so tight, I did include a handful of illustration notes just to explain what was happening in the text and what part of the baking process was being depicted, but Jason elevated the text with his own creativity. The dog was something he added in (which I love!) and the candles being lit for Shabbat are actually based on the ones he used to light with his own grandmother growing up.

Me: Jason Kirschner’s illustrations are wonderful!  I especially loved the color palette, and the recipe highlights (like the giant bag of flour).  So cool!  Were there any illustration surprises for you?  Any favorites? 

Charlotte: Jason Kirchner’s illustrations are incredible. I love his use of perspective and my favorite spread it of the narrator leaping across oversized ingredients. His illustrations bring so much wonderful humor and joy to the book that I never dreamed possible.

Me: I do love those end pages.  They’re amazing!  Why was it important to you to share baking challah bread and the Jewish customs associated with it with young readers?

Charlotte: Besides reading with my children, baking challah is my favorite thing to do with them. Making challah together has brought so much joy and laughter into our home, not to mention delicious bread. I wanted to share the joy I feel in embracing this timeless tradition with others and hopefully encourage them to head into their kitchen with their own littles and cook up memories of their own.

Challah DaySpread2

Reproduced with permission from Holiday House Publishing, Inc. Text copyright © 2023 by Charlotte Offsay. Illustrations copyright © 2023 by Jason Kirschner. All Rights Reserved.

Me: I love that. I saw you make rainbow-colored challah bread with your kiddos on one of your social media channels.  Is that a favorite way for you to make it?  If not, what is your personal favorite way of baking challah?

Charlotte: We do love making rainbow challah, but my favorite is to try different challah shapes to celebrate different holidays. It is fun to experiment with my kids and cook up a turkey shaped challah for Thanksgiving, for example. We stuffed each of the feathers with Oreo crumbs this past year. I do love pretzel chocolate chip challah the best though!

Wow! Those both sound delicious!  Thank you for stopping by my blog again Charlotte.

Dear readers, if you haven’t yet had a chance to read this book, you may want to track it down.  It’s a brilliant example of a simple text without a plot that succeeds as a book incredibly well.  You won’t want to miss it.

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