Here are a few of our favorite Yom HaAtzmaut books!
With Purim here in a few short weeks, our friends at Karben Publishing are sharing a few of the titles on their Purim bookshelf. Read more here.
Probably the best book is The Hardest Word by Jacqueline Jules. I need to admit that I personally don’t love this book. Usually, I try hard not to recommend children’s books that adults won’t like — but in this case, this is a huge crowd pleaser for the younger crowd and actually effectively teaches how difficult, and important it is, to say you are sorry. I won’t describe the story because I doubt you’d look at it if I did but really, it is actually quite a good discussion starter. The illustrations may feel very old fashioned, as does the text type (see me being picky), but the message is good and kids seem to really relate to it. Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on how much you are willing to put up with for your children, if your children like the Ziz character, there are a few more books featuring the mythical giant bird for them to enjoy and for you to cringe at. Check out Noah and the Ziz, The Princess and the Ziz, and The Ziz and the Hanukkah Miracle.
When the Chickens Went on Strike by Erica Silverman is stunning — which really counts for a lot for me because I think that everyone judges a book by its cover. Even more so with children’s books: everyone judges a picture book by its illustrations.
But I will offer, that it is on a bit of an odd topic. Adapted from a Sholom Aleichem story, Chickensis about a boy who has a really hard time being good. He wants to be good, he really
Nachshon Who Was Afraid to Swim by Deborah Bodin Cohen. Great for the 6 and up set, this is the story of Nachshon, the Biblical character who is said to be the one to first step into the sea (before it split). Didn’t help (according to Cohen, not the Bible) that he was afraid of water. But freedom means living up to your fears… Beautifully illustrated and a great book to help you discuss freedom and the Exodus story. New this year!
Yankee at the Seder by Elka Weber. Great book. Really, really great book. It’s the end of the Civil War and a Yankee Soldier happens upon a Southern child eating matzah outside. Of course, the family invites him for seder. There’s nothing boring or didactic about this story — it’s just great. Pictures are lovely, writing is lovely. Highly recommended and new this year!
Let My People Go! by Tilda Balsley. A play about the plagues (oy vey), it’s actually a lot of fun. Last year, I got our whole seder table participating, with my (then) 5 year old playing Moses. There’s lots of words for the narrator to say and the other parts are pretty easy to remember (even for a 5 year old).
The Secret Seder by Doreen Rappaport. An illustrated book for older children, this is the story of a family who is pretending to be Gentiles during the Holocaust. The lengths that they are prepared to go to celebrate Passover and have
Set during the late 16th century, The Secret Shofar of Barcelona tells the story of Don Fernando Aguilar, the conductor of the Royal Orchestra of Barcelona. A converso, Don Fernando has written a piece of music for the Duke that is set to debut on the night of Rosh Hashanah and plans to have a Rosh Hashanah dinner with other Jewish families on open night, disguised as a celebratory dinner for opening night.
His son Rafael however, has a better idea — an idea that will allow the Jews of Barcelona to hear the shofar in plain sight. But, as you might expect, it’s a dangerous plan, and one that a young boy might be the only person brave enough to do.
Finally, for many, Gershon’s Monster by Eric Kimmel is the best Rosh Hashanah book around. And while I agree that it is beautiful (really, really beautiful), and a gripping story, it’s also scary (really, really scary). I’m including it here, instead of at Rosh Hashanah time, because Gershon’s Monster is the story of a man who never wants to own up to his poor behavior. Instead, he literally sweeps them away and dumps them in the sea. Well, nothing good is going to come out of that. As the wise man warns at the beginning of the book:
“Did you think you could live so thoughtlessly forever? The sea cries out because you have polluted her waters! God is
So, I’m inspired by my 2nd grader who is studying immigration, but probably more so by his wonderful teacher and the creative ways she is introducing this topic to her class. As I looked at her book box of immigration stories for the kids, I was surprised by how few Jewish titles she had. Now, some were in the hands of happy children, but it did make me think, what are the best Jewish immigration picture books? So, here’s the list:
First Rain by Charlotte Herman is lovely. Abby and her parents have decided to move to Israel from North America, and they are really happy with their decision, it’s hard to leave behind Abby’s grandmother. First Rain tells the story of the correspondence between grandmother and grandchild as Abby learns more and more about her new home. What’s nice is that in addition to learning more, Abby teaches her grandmother all about Israel, including some Hebrew words. One of the things that Abby learns about Israel is how everyone waits for the first rain of the year after the long hot summer, much like she used to wait for the first snow. Guess who arrives for a visit on the same day that Abby hears the sounds of rain on the roof? I’ll admit, there’s something sad about this book — the grandmother sure does look unhappy to see Abby and her folks move away. But, it’s a lovely intergenerational story, and very applicable to many long distance grandparents, even if their grandchildren don’t live in Israel. (Great for 5-7 year olds.)
Yuvi’s Candy Tree by Lesley Simpson is a fantastic new book. But it won’t be out until March 2011 (sorry!). The story of Yuvi’s trip from Ethiopia to Israel is captured in beautifully poetic language and simple artwork. The story is a little scary (appropriately), but does a great job of conveying the long, hard trip to Israel for many Ethiopian Jews. You can always pre-order… (I think it’ll work best for 7-10 year olds.)
Finally, All the Lights in the Night by Arthur
Picture Book. Ages 4-6.
In a world dominated by Disney princesses, it is always exciting when a new princess steps on the stage.
When Rosie discovers that the Shabbat Queen is invited to her home each Shabbat, she decides to invite the Shabbat Princess as well. As Rosie quite correctly observes, “Princesses are much more exciting than queens.”
In this beautifully illustrated story, we watch as Rosie, and her very accommodating parents, get ready for the Shabbat princess.
Dressed in a satin gown, silver slippers, jewelry and a tiara, Rosie succeeds in preparing her home for the Shabbat princess, recreating her Shabbat table to be as inviting as possible for a Shabbat princess.
This story is a perfect one to read to your little ones on Erev Shabbat or over Shabbat. The story and illustrations will make you wish for a Shabbat princess of your own.
Since it’s Friday and I’m thinking ahead to Shabbat, I thought I’d blog about one of my favorite Shabbat books — Mrs. Moskowitz and the Sabbath Candlesticks by Amy Schwartz.
Mrs. Moskowitz and the Sabbath Candlesticks
Moskowitz (as my children like to call the book), is one of the first books published by the incredibly talented writer/ illustrator, Amy Schwartz, who is responsible for some of my favorite mainstream books — like Bea and Mr. Jones,Annabelle Swift, Kindergartener, and A Glorious Day, to name a few. In this book, Schwartz creates a very special kind of Shabbat book — one that is perfect for families of all denominations and beliefs — no mean feat to be sure. Moskowitz is the story