Koala Challah

  • Interest Level: Preschool - Grade 1
  • Reading Level: Kindergarten

Young, awkward, messy Lila the koala wants to help her family get ready for Shabbat dinner. Her plan is to bake her own loaf of challah—but each time she tries, the challah comes out wrong. What’s the secret to making the best koala challah ever?

Format Your Price Add
Interest Level Preschool - Grade 1
Reading Level Kindergarten
Genre Picture Books, Social Studies
Copyright 2017
Publisher Lerner Publishing Group
Imprint Kar-Ben Publishing ®
Language English
Number of Pages 24
Publication Date 2017-08-01
Text Type Fiction
BISACS JUV050000, JUV039090
Dewey [E]
Graphics Full-color illustrations
Dimensions 9.75 x 9.75
Lexile 480
Features Reviewed, Teaching Guides, and eSource


Cleveland Jewish News

“Lila the koala attempts to assist her family in preparation of Shabbat. However, no matter what she does, the challah doesn’t look right. Find out the secret to making a great challah.” – Cleveland Jewish News

Jewish Herald-Voice (Texas Gulf Coast)

“Little Lila Koala wants to make the perfect Shabbat challah, but her mother said she must first practice. Unfortunately, whatever she does, the challah comes out wrong. Find out the secret to making the best Koala Challah ever.” – Jewish Herald-Voice

Jewish Book Council

“Cuddly animals, here koala bears, will remind you that challah is part of the Shabbat service as they deliver a story imbued with determination and perseverance that proves the positive results of these two fine character traits. Koala Lila wants to keep up with her two older sisters, who star at creating eucalyptus candles and wine every week. When Lila tries she makes a mess, to her parents’ dismay. They finally decide to let her practice making challah, with the promise that if she is successful this will be her Shabbat job. From Sunday to Wednesday Lila tries and fails. On Thursday she has baking success, but she finds her challah ordinary when she wants it to be a special product like the ones her sisters make. After thinking about it, Lila adds her family’s favorite food, eucalyptus oil, to the dough. At Shabbat dinner they declare it the yummiest bread ever; Koala Challah is born. The charming, fun tale ends.

The illustrations are honest and appealing; the bears’ faces reflect their emotions. The secret to Lila’s success is not necessarily the best for humans, as eucalyptus is toxic in large amounts. They can love their challah, we can love ours, and we can all love Shabbat." – Jewish Book Council

Association of Jewish Libraries

“Lila wants to help her family get ready for Shabbat. She tries making eucalyptus oil candles and eucalyptus wine like her sisters. She tries making decorations for the Shabbat table. Unfortunately, everything she tries makes a huge mess that her parents have to clean up in a hurry which is very unhelpful. When she decides that she will make the challah for Shabbat, her father agrees as long as she practices first. It takes several attempts, but at last Lila produces her special contribution―Eucalyptus Challah!

This is a charming story about persistence. While Lila appears to be a bit young to be given challah baking duty, she is carefully assisted by her parents and sisters. When at last she produces her very special treat, you can almost feel the pride in her and her family. The illustrations are a colorful and appealing combination of digital and traditional media that makes for an interesting collage look. A clever story for a family Shabbat dinner or a synagogue Tot Shabbat storytelling.”—Association of Jewish Libraries

Publishers Weekly

“Lila, a little koala, sees how her older sisters get to show off their eucalyptus-themed Shabbat specialties (Rachel makes eucalyptus oil candles, Naomi makes eucalyptus wine) and yearns to be part of the preparations. But as Mommy gently but firmly explains, her helpfulness can be a hindrance: ‘Every week we hurry to get ready for Shabbat, and every week you make a mess.’ When Lila asks if she can make the challah, Mommy acquiesces—as long as Lila practices all week. Gehl (the Peep and Egg series) sensitively and subtly taps into children’s need to feel capable and appreciated, while reinforcing the importance of grit and high personal standards (Lila decides that her challah must be ‘better than fine’ and adds eucalyptus flavoring). Mola’s detailed floral backgrounds and dense colors can muddy the pictures’ focus and action, but her characters have a winning earnestness, and Lila’s steely determination to prove she can make a contribution shines through her adorable, furry expressions.”—Publishers Weekly Online

Kirkus Reviews

“Set in Australia, this take on baking a traditional Jewish food focuses on a family of koalas. Little sister Lila is eager to help her koala family prepare for the Friday night Shabbat celebration, but her efforts are more messy than useful. ‘Koala bears love eucalyptus!’ and so Lila tries to make eucalyptus candles, unsuccessfully. Her attempts to make wine with eucalyptus leave a messy kitchen, as does her craft project to adorn the dinner table. Finally, Lila gets permission to bake a challah, the traditional braided egg bread served for the Sabbath, provided she practices. Each night, starting on Sunday, she bakes but puts in too much or too little from the ingredient list. On Friday, she finally succeeds in baking a delicious bread with the addition of that very special koala favorite, and the family sits down to a wonderful holiday dinner. Lila’s father wears a kippah on his head, showing that they are observant. Both families who hold Sabbath dinners and those who do not will enjoy Lila’s efforts to contribute. Placing the story in an unusual setting should lead to discussions about variations in food preparation and long-cherished customs. Mola’s colorful, full-bleed illustrations fill in some of the details of the recipe not in the text and add to the enjoyment. Warm-spirited family holiday togetherness.”—Kirkus Reviews

Author: Laura Gehl

Laura Gehl is the award-winning author of more than three dozen picture books, board books, and early readers including Who Is a Scientist?, I Got a Chicken for My Birthday, Dibs!, and Climate Warriors: Fourteen Scientists and Fourteen Ways to Save our Planet. A former science teacher with a PhD in neuroscience, Laura lives in Chevy Chase, Maryland, with her husband and four children.

Illustrator: Maria Mola

Maria Mola loves Saturdays and coffee. Born in Barcelona, she trained at the Francesca Bonnemaison School in Barcelona and the Moore College of Art in Philadelphia. She works in both traditional and digital media, often combining both. She lives in Chicago.

Lerner eSource™ offers free digital teaching and learning resources, including Common Core State Standards (CCSS) teaching guides. These guides, created by classroom teachers, offer short lessons and writing exercises that give students specific instruction and practice using Common Core skills and strategies. Lerner eSource also provides additional resources including online activities, downloadable/printable graphic organizers, and additional educational materials that would also support Common Core instruction. Download, share, pin, print, and save as many of these free resources as you like!

Koala Challah

Young, awkward, messy Lila the koala wants to help her family get ready for Shabbat dinner. Her plan is to bake her own loaf of challah—but each time she tries, the challah comes out wrong. What’s the secret to making the best koala challah ever? View available downloads →