Sukkot is nearly here, and Micah and his family are heading to a pumpkin patch. But Micah faces a quandary: Should he find the absolute best pumpkin to decorate his family’s sukkah? Or should he donate the pumpkins to a soup kitchen? What will he decide?

This is the plot of Laya Steinberg‘s new book, “The Best Sukkot Pumpkin Ever.” (Illustrations are by Colleen Madden.) The book is personal: The Newton picture-book author and mom of two runs the garden for Congregation Dorshei Tzedek and the First Unitarian Society of Newton, which donates to the Newton Food Pantry.


School groups visit the garden, and she explains hunger to them.

“If you’re really hungry, you wonder, ‘When is dinner going to be ready?’ Imagine feeling like that all day long.’ The kids’ faces are kind of like, ‘Huh?’ We tell them that there are people who are always hungry, and we donate from the garden so they can have healthy, nutritious stuff, too. They get it,” she says.

In the book, Micah learns that the pumpkins grown on Farmer Jared’s farm will go toward a soup kitchen. By collecting them, he’s taking part in tikkun olam. In return for gathering the pumpkins, he’s told, he can take one home. Micah scours the fields for the biggest, best pumpkin to take home for Sukkot, maybe for decorations, or a soup or a tasty pie.

Laya Steinberg (Courtesy photo)
Laya Steinberg (Courtesy photo)

Or does he? What Micah does with the pumpkin, and what he does go home with after his day on the farm, teaches an important lesson. (You’ll have to read the book to learn the ending!)

“It’s such a natural thing to want to take possession of something. The lesson is in what he ends up with,” Steinberg says.

Steinberg will appear at Brookline Booksmith at 10:30 a.m. on Sept. 24; at Newtonville Books at 2 p.m. on Oct. 1; and at Powisset Farm Dover’s Sukkot on the Farm at 9:30 a.m. on Oct. 8. Learn more here.