What Do Challah Bread and Koalas Have In Common?

Have you ever seen a koala celebrate Shabbat? Well, soon you will—meet Lila and her family this fall! Paired with Maria Mola’s vibrant illustrations, Laura Gehls’ story comes to life in this fun picture book. 

But how did koalas and challahs become a book idea?

“I was in a carpool lane waiting to drop my kids off for a Jewish Community Center summer camp,” said author Laura Gehls, “and we were playing a game called ‘hinky pinky.’ The idea is that you give two clues, and the answer is two rhyming words. So if I say 'A cute animal from Australia, and traditional bread for Shabbat,' then you say… 'KOALA CHALLAH!' And so the title of this book was born.”

Laura and family, with a koala

And two seemingly unrelated things became a delightful story. It also gives Gehls the opportunity to share the game that inspired it all with students as she visits schools. According to her, “Hinky pinky is a fun way to build vocabulary, develop critical thinking skills, and strengthen creativity and rhyming abilities.” Maybe it could even inspire more books someday!

In the meantime, we’ve got one hinky pinky inspiration ready to delight readers with the clumsy yet determined Lila the koala and her loving family. Get ready for Lila’s Shabbat adventures as she tries to make a delicious challah for her family—in her own special way.

“We don’t strive for ‘perfect’ Shabbat dinners in our family—being together for dinner is the most important part for us,” said Gehls. “I remember one Shabbat where our dinner was takeout pizza.  A candle fell over and set the pizza box on fire!”

Gehl says, "I hope that this book will encourage families to come together for Shabbat dinner, even if the house is a mess, the kids are a mess (mine are usually covered with dirt and/or chocolate at any given time), and nobody had time to cook."