A Box of Candles is the story of a young girl’s changing relationship with her neighbor, Mr. Adler, set in the context of the Jewish year. Ruthie dislikes Mr. Adler because he spends too much time with Grandma Gussie, time she would have spent with Ruthie. Ruthie also dislikes Mr. Adler because he has a mustache, wears funny-looking hats, and whistles. But Mr. Adler comes to Ruthie’s rescue when she forgets the tune for the Four Questions on Passover. He also helps her learn to ride a bike, comforts her with a story when thunder bothers her on Shavuot, and invites her to help him in his garden over the summer. By the time Rosh Hashanah comes around, Ruthie is ready to acknowledge that she and Mr. Adler are friends. Their relationship continues to grow as the Shabbat and holiday candles burn. On Purim, Ruthie pushes Mr. Adler to marry Grandma Gussie.
Ruthie’s recognition of her own growth is a universal story of childhood, while the particulars of the Jewish year will inform Jewish and non-Jewish readers.