Friday, August 08, 2008

2007 Noteworthy Jewish Books for Children & Teens

Presented by Heidi Estrin, Association of Jewish Libraries
August 30, 2007

Abraham’s Search for God by Jacqueline Jules, Kar-Ben 2007, Preschool-Grade 3
A picture book version of the midrash on how young Abraham rejects idol worship and realizes that there is One God who created the world.

The Bedtime Sh’ma: A Goodnight Book by Sarah Gershman, EKS 2007, Preschool-Grade 2
A gentle and sweet bedtime meditation on the sh’ma prayer and its meaning, with an accompanying CD of relaxing music.

The Castle on Hester Street by Linda Heller, Simon & Schuster 2007, Preschool-Grade 3
This classic Sydney Taylor Book Award winner has been reillustrated by Boris Kulikov. The new pictures are full-color and more zany than the old. Worth getting, but don’t throw out the old one – both are good in different ways.

Celebrate Rosh Hashanah & Yom Kippur by Deborah Heiligman, National Geographic 2007,
K-Grade 3
Part of a National Geographic nonfiction picture book series on holidays around the world, illustrated with amazing multicultural photos. Simple but meaningful explanation of the holidays. Series also includes Chanukah and Passover.

Cures for Heartbreak by Margot Rabb, Delacorte/Random 2007, Grades 8-adult
A poignant, funny, sad, hopeful novel about a teenage girl whose mother dies suddenly of cancer. The family is Jewish but not very observant, and the Jewish content is minimal, but it’s very well written, and it’s based on the author’s own life.

Ethan, Suspended by Pamela Ehrenberg, Eerdmans 2007, Grades 6-8
Ethan Oppenheimer gets in trouble and is sent to live with his grandparents and go to school in their inner city DC neighborhood for a while. His grandparents are the only Jews and the only white people left in the area, and the experience of being in the minority helps Ethan learn and grow. Jewish content in this chapter book is subtle but interesting.

Five Little Gefiltes by dave horowitz, Putnam 2007, Preschool-Grade 1
A hilarious picture book take-off of the “Five Little Ducks” song with strong Yiddishe flavor and a New York backdrop. A really fun way to introduce kids to Yiddish vocabulary and culture.

The Golden Dreydl by Ellen Kushner, Charlesbridge 2007, Grades 3-5
A Jewish version of the Nutcracker, in which a girl has a magical adventure in a dream. Honestly, I don’t like this book. I thought it was poorly written and silly. BUT, it came from a radio drama and you can get the CD “The Golden Dreydl: Klezmer Nutcracker for Chanukah” performed by the Shirim Klezmer Orchestra, and personally I think that is really fun.

Hanukkah Moon by Deborah da Costa, Kar Ben 2007, Preschool-Grade 2
Isobel spends Hanukkah at Aunt Luisa’s, and learns some things about her own Mexican-Jewish heritage as they welcome la luna nueva, the new moon that appears on Hanukkah. A quiet, pleasant picture book, especially nice for celebrating Hispanic Jewry.

Hitler’s Canary by Sandi Toksvig, Roaring Brook 2007, Grades 6-Adult
Beautifully written novel of the Danish Resistance during WWII. It feels like one of those old fashioned books that was not written for a specific age group, but was just written to tell an amazing story. Based on family experiences of the author.

Houdini the Handcuff King by Jason Lutes & Nick Bertozzi, Hyperion 2007, Grades 4-Adult
A tightly-told story in graphic novel format, depicting Houdini’s “Bridge Jump” escape. The story touches upon Houdini’s Jewish identity.

Light by Jane Breskin Zalben, Dutton 2007, K-Grade 3
One of the few picture books to address the concept of tikkun olam. Zalben uses semi-abstract art to show the midrash about a beginning-of-the-world vessel of light breaking, and how humans are continually gathering light and repairing the world. A bit vaguely told, but could be a good springboard for discussion with kids.

A Mezuzah on the Door by Amy Meltzer, Kar Ben 2007, Preschool-Grade 2
A young city boy feels lonely in his new suburban house until his family holds a Hanukkat Habayit, a dedication and mezuzah-hanging party for their new home. Sweet picture book, which does a good job of showing the significance of the mezuzah.

My Cousin Tamar Lives in Israel by Michelle Abraham, URJ Press 2007, Preschool-Grade 1
Disappointingly only available in softcover, but highly useful for early childhood lessons on Israel. A boy compares his own holiday celebrations in America with his cousin’s experiences of those same holidays in Israel.

Papa Jethro by Deborah Bodin Cohen, Kar Ben 2007, Preschool-Grade 2
A little Jewish girl whose grandfather is Christian asks him why they are different, and he tells her the story of Jethro, Moses’s non-Jewish father-in-law, and of Jethro’s loving relationship with his Jewish grandson Gershom. A sweet story that addresses interfaith issues sensitively.

The Secret of Preist’s Grotto: A Holocaust Survival Story by Peter Lane Taylor, Kar Ben 2007,
Grades 5-9
Excellent high-interest nonfiction profusely illustrated with photos about a group of Ukranian Jewish families who survived the Holocaust by hiding in a cold, dark, damp cave for more than 344 days.

Someone Named Eva by Joan M. Wolf, Clarion 2007, Grades 4-6
A novel about a little-known Nazi plan to mold conquered Aryan-looking children into model German citizens. Milada, a blond, blue-eyed Czech girl, struggles to remember her true identity when is taken from her family and renamed Eva. Not exactly Jewish content, but relevant within Holocaust fiction collections.

Strange Relations by Sonya Levitin, Knopf 2007, Grades 7-12
Teenaged Marne travels to Hawaii to spend the summer with her mother’s semi-estranged sister. Aunt Chaya (formerly Carole) has married a Chabad rabbi and become very observant while Marne’s family is very assimilated. An unusual and interesting novel about identity, growth, and acceptance.

Tasting the Sky: A Palestinian Childhood by Ibtisam Barakat, FSG 2007, Grades 7-12
A sensitive memoir of the author’s childhood during the Six Day War and its aftermath. The child’s-eye view makes the events more personal than political, and the dedication shows an open attitude: “To Alef, the letter that begins the alphabets of both Arabic and Hebrew—two Semitic languages, sisters for centuries. May we find the language that takes us to the only home there is—one another’s hearts.” Beautifully written.

Ten Good Rules: A Counting Book by Susan Remick Topeck, Kar Ben 2007, Preschool
This classic picture book of the ten commandments has been reillustrated with photographs of real preschool children enacting scenes that illustrate each rule. Lively and colorful, a great update.

What Makes Someone a Jew? By Lauren Seidman, Jewish Lights 2007, Preschool-Grade 2
Simple statements and colorful multicultural photographs help children to understand that Jewish identity is diverse. This picture book is a good starting point for discussion.

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