Wednesday, September 17, 2008

2008 Noteworthy Jewish Books for Children & Teens

Presented by Heidi Estrin, Association of Jewish Libraries
September 16, 2008

A is for Abraham by Richard Michelson, Sleeping Bear 2008, Preschool-Grade 3
A rhyming Jewish alphabet book with lovely illustrations.

Angel Girl by Laurie Freedman, Lerner/Carolrhoda 2008, Grade 3 and up
A Holocaust picture book based on the true story about a boy whose “angel girl” gives him food through the barbed wire every day. As an adult, he meets and marries the same girl. (The author and subject of this book live in Miami and will be guests at our April 2009 SFAJL meeting!)

The Apprentice’s Masterpiece: A Story of Medieval Spain by Melanie Little, Annick 2008, Grades 7-12
A novel in free verse gives voice to two teens, one Jewish Converso and one Muslim, and the struggles in their relationship and their society.

As Good As Anybody by Richard Michelson, Knopf 2008, Preschool-Grade 4
Parallels the youth and growth of Martin Luther King and Abraham Joshua Heschel, culminating in their march for freedom in Selma, 1965. Well-told, with gorgeous illustrations by Raul Colon.

The Bat-Chen Diaries by Bat-Chen Shahak, Kar-Ben 2008, Grades 5 and up
The collected writings (letters, birthday poems, diaries) of a young Israeli girl who was killed in a bombing. The writings are pedestrian, but the glimpse into everyday Israeli life is valuable.

A Bottle in the Gaza Sea by Valerie Zenatti, Bloomsbury 2008, Grades 7 and up
Israeli Tal puts a message in a bottle, romantically hoping to find a way to connect with a Palestinian. Her message is answered by “Gazaman” via email, and the two begin a correspondence full of friction and growth. A quick and fascinating read. Zenatti also wrote When I Was a Soldier about a girl’s experiences in the IDF. [In our discussion at the AJL meeting, Debbie Ring pointed out that readers must remain aware of the "stranger danger" in forming online relationships.]

The Boy Who Dared by Susan Bartoletti, Scholastic 2008, Grades 8 and up
A novel based on the life of Helmuth Hubner, a Nazi Youth who saw the truth and tried to work against the Nazis, but who was ultimately executed for being a “enemy of the state.” Helmuth was featured in the author’s nonfiction Hitler Youth, and this is her deeper exploration of his story.

Boys of Steel: The Creators of Superman by Marc Tyler Nobleman, Knopf 2008, Grades 2-4
A picture book biography of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, the Jewish creators of Superman. The Jewish content is minimal, but it’s great for beefing up the children’s biography section, and you can use it to start a discussion of Jewish elements in the Superman legend.

Celebrating with Jewish Crafts by Rebeca Ruzansky, self published 2008, Grades 3-8
Self-published but beautifully done, this is a well-designed arts and crafts guide with fun projects and great photography.

Checkpoints by Marilyn Levy, Jewish Publication Society 2008, Grades 8-12
I haven’t read it yet, but it’s mostly been well-reviewed by the Sydney Taylor Book Award Committee. It’s about an Israeli teenage girl whose friendship with a Palestinian girl is strained by the Intifada. I’ve heard it’s complex and even-handed.

The Freak series by Carol Matas, Key Porter 2008, Grades 5-8
After a near-death experience, Jade wakes up psychic. Her new abilities allow her to solve mysteries and protect friends. Jewish culture and plot elements are woven into the stories, which combine adventure and philosophical themes.

How Mama Brought the Spring by Fran Manushkin, Dutton 2008, Preschool-Grade 3
Not heavily Jewish, but the family does make blintzes and there are so few stories you can use for Shavuot! A sprightly story about how Mama’s blintz recipe is so wonderful that it melts the snow and brings the spring.

Keeping Israel Safe by Barbara Sofer, Kar-Ben 2008, Grades 4-8
Probably the only book of its kind, this is a nonfiction title about the workings of the Israel Defense Force. A little dry, but useful.

My Chocolate Year by Charlotte Herman, Simon & Schuster 2008, Grades 2-4
A cozy family story of Dorrie’s life in 1946 Jewish Chicago, and her quest to incorporate chocolate into all her activities. While it might not thrill today’s kids, I think nostalgic adults will get a big kick out of it.

The Mysterious Guests by Eric Kimmel, Holiday House 2008, Grades K-4
A slightly creepy original folktale about Sukkot, with satisfying themes of justice and hospitality. Beautiful paintings by Katya Krenina.

Rabbi Harvey Rides Again by Steve Sheinkin, Jewish Lights 2008, Grades 3-7
This is the second Rabbi Harvey book in the graphic novel series. Traditional Jewish folk themes are amusingly retold using a Wild West setting.

Rashi’s Daughter, Secret Scholar by Maggie Anton, Jewish Publication Society 2008, Grades 7 and up
Maggie Anton writes Jewish historical bodice-rippers for adults. This is a toned-down teen novel about the same characters, the daughters of scholar Rashi.

Rutka’s Notebook by Rutka Laskier, Time/Yad Vashem 2008, Grades 7 and up
This diary kept by a Polish teen during the Holocaust is sandwiched by interesting essays about how it was found, and about the significance of teenage war diaries. This makes it a unique offering, although the diary itself is less compelling than Anne Frank’s.

Sarah Laughs by Jacqueline Jules, Kar-Ben 2008, Preschool-Grade 3
A poetically told picture book version of the life of the biblical matriarch Sarah, beautifully illustrated. A companion to last year’s Abraham’s Search for God.

Torah for Teens: Growing Up Spiritually with the Weekly Sidrah by Jeffrey Cohen, Vallentine Mitchell 2008, Grades 7 and up
I haven’t personally read this one, but it looks very useful. This is a British import in which each weekly Torah portion is summarized and explained in terms young people can relate to. Boring cover, but worth booktalking to kids preparing for b’nai mitzvah.

The Truth About My Bat Mitzvah by Nora Baskin, Simon & Schuster 2008, Grades 5-8
A half-Jewish girl struggles with what it means to embrace her Jewish identity. While her understanding of Judaism remains superficial, her attitude becomes more open. It’s a realistic portrayal and would be good for discussion groups.

No comments: