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Home > GreenSense Directory > Books > Kid's Books > Jewish Traditions

GreenSense Directory

Jewish Traditions

Books for Kids that celebrate Jewish Traditions

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Cakes and Miracles - - by Barbara Diamond Goldin; illustrated by Erika Weihs Viking, 1991. A blind boy surprises his community by baking beautiful Purim cookies, though he cannot see. Purim is a special Jewish holiday in early spring. It is a day of merrymaking and masquerade, when children dress in costumes and pass out baskets of sweet treats, and the ordinary, workaday world is stood on its head. This story is set in the old country. Hershel is a blind boy from a poor family. His father is dead and he and his mother struggle to get by. Though Hershel is blind, he can do many things. He carries wood and water for his mother, goes to school, and even catches frogs which he uses to frighten the old rabbi, his teacher. Yet Hershel worries how he will find a place in the world when he is a man. This is a realistic and satisfying tale as Hershel proves his abilities to his mother and the entire village. His perserverance, cleverness and faith in himself win the day and his place in the community is assured. The text of this book is quite meaty, good for children with the attention span for a wordier picture book. The story of Queen Esther and other holiday traditions are explained in the back.

Hanukkah! - - by Roni Schotter Marylin Hafner; Little Brown & Co, 1993. This is one of those books I just want to crawl inside and live in. The house is comfortably messy, filled with art projects and skylights and Hanukkah mobiles. The family's love for each other shines on every page, and the illustrations glow with color and warmth.

In darkest December Night steals in early And whisks away the light. But warm inside, Mama, Papa, and Grandma Rose, Light the sun...
From these opening lines this cozy Hanukkah tale sets the mysterious dark of night against luminous interiors. The first illustration shows a city street scene, in a quiet Jewish neighborhood just after sunset. A street lamp sheds a pool of light, shops and apartments glow cheerfully yellow, the sunset sky sparkles with stars and a huge moon glows overhead. The next page takes you into the cozy home of this cheerful, loving family. While Grandma lights the menorah, that huge crescent moon and sparkly stars still shine through the window, and the children look on with wide eyes. The family then scatters to make gifts, then come together again to eat, dance, sing, play, and finally trot off to bed with full tummies. This is one of those books I just want to crawl inside and live in. The house is comfortably messy, filled with art projects and skylights and Hanukkah mobiles. The family's love for each other shines on every page, and the illustrations glow with color and warmth. This is a great story for a young child who is just starting to understand the meaning of the holiday, but older kids will enjoy its warmth and gentle humour as well.

Mrs. Katz and Tush - - by Patricia Polacco Bantam Books, 1992. A Jewish widow and an African-American boy celebrate the feast of Passover and develop a lifelong friendship. This beautiful book operates on many levels. It is the story of a lifelong friendship between Mrs. Katz, a lonely Jewish widow and her neighbor Larnel, an African-American boy. They become friends when Larnel gives Mrs. Katz a kitten whom she dubs Tush. As their friendship grows, Mrs. Katz shares shares stories of her immigrant past and of anti-semitism. She and Larnel talk about their common history of slavery and oppression. Mrs. Katz explains many Jewish traditions in a simple and non-judgemental fashion. For example, when Larnel wonders why Mrs. Katz has so many dishes, she explains "Because some Jews don't eat dairy and meat off the same dishes." I am always on the lookout for good multi-cultural books and this is one of my favorites. Mrs. Katz and Larnel are both very realistic characters. Their inner-city neighborhood vibrates with warmth and community spirit. Issues of racial and cultural differences are handled with compassion, humour and optimism. The traditional Passover themes of freedom, and of sharing our heritage are beautifully demonstrated. The ending never fails to bring tears to my eyes. This book is so rich with nuance and detail, with life and hope. Some of the most complex and challenging themes in modern life are distilled down to a simple story. And that, after all, is what the best children's literature is all about.

The Borrowed Hanukkah Latkes - - by Linda Glaser; illustrated by Nancy Cote Albert Whitman & Company, 1997. A determined little girl overcomes an elderly neighbor's stubborness in this joyful tale of sharing and multigenerational friendship. Mrs. Greenberg, who lives next door to Rachel, "has a heart of gold but is as stubborn as an ox", according to Rachel's mother. But Rachel can be pretty determined herself as this warm and lively tale of sharing between neighbors unfolds. Rachel's house is bursting with relatives and food. Mrs. Greenberg is all alone but repeatedly turns down Rachel's invitations because she doesn't want to be a bother. Mrs. Greenberg doesn't realize it at first but she's met her match; Rachel is at least as stubborn as she is. Rachel's combination of sensitivity, creativity and pluck as she breaks down Mrs. Greenberg's resisitance is both amusing and deeply touching. Generous humour is sprinkled throughout and the high energy gouache illustrations keep things lively; Rachel dances across the pages, her pigtails flying and her feet barely touching the ground. This is a truly special book about the things that matter most to us during the holidays; food of course, but also community, friendship, love and sharing, most especially sharing of ourselves.

The Chanukkah Guest - - by Eric A. Kimmel Giora Carmi; Holiday House, 1992. This book resonates with gentle humour. The story is somewhat wordy for a young child, but there're lots of opportunities to growl and grunt like a bear which should keep young listeners delighted.The story is somewhat fantastic, but not at all scary. Bubba Brayna is ninety-seven years old and doesn't see or hear as well as she used to. Old Bear is sleeping cozily in his den, when he is awakened by the delicious scent of Bubba Brayna's latkes. Old Bear comes to call, Bubba Brayna mistakes him for the rabbi, and invites him in. Old bear then grunts and growls his way through the blessings, eats up all the latkes and leaves with a warm scarf wrapped around his neck. Set in a European shtetl of some undefined past era, this book resonates with gentle humour. The story is somewhat wordy for a young child, but there's lots of opportunities to growl and grunt like a bear which should keep young listeners delighted.The story is somewhat fantastic, but not at all scary ( I don't know why so many old country tales for kids are filled with ghosts and dybbucks but alas it is so). The art is light and airy, and evokes the deep snow and chill of winter. At the end, when Bubba Brayna realizes that she has just spent the evening entertaining a wild bear, she responds with a generous giggle. "That was a very clever bear... or a very foolish Bubba Brayna. Ah well, let the bear have a happy Chanukkah. I had a happy Channukah too." Would that we could all share her staunchness it the face of the unexpected, especially around the holidays. Martha Stewart would be proud.

The Trees Of the Dancing Goats - - The Trees Of the Dancing Goats by Patricia Polacco Simon & Schuster, 1996. A Jewish family spreads holiday cheeer when their gentile neighbors are stricken with scarlett fever. Set in a midwestern farm community in the first half of this century, this lovely fable depicts a Jewish family as they prepare for Hanukkah; Grandma dips menorah candles, Grandpa carves wooden animals to give as gifts, and the whole family helps to prepare a feast including, of course, lots of latkes. But when their non-jewish neighbors are stricken with scarlett fever, Grandma and Grandpa turn into Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus, bringing food and decorated trees in the middle of the night to all the sick families. This is a great book because it honors both Christmas and Hanukkah traditions, and celebrates a vibrant, rural community made of Christians and Jews helping each other out. Based on a true story from the author's childhood, it depicts a multi-generational family with a single working mother at its center. Patricia Polacco's illustrations are earthy and powerful, filled with an energy and a life-force that sets her apart from most children's illustrators. For children who can listen to a longer story, this is sure to become a holiday favorite.

***

Cakes and Miracles - - by Barbara Diamond Goldin; illustrated by Erika Weihs Viking, 1991. A blind boy surprises his community by baking beautiful Purim cookies, though he cannot see. Purim is a special Jewish holiday in early spring. It is a day of merrymaking and masquerade, when children dress in costumes and pass out baskets of sweet treats, and the ordinary, workaday world is stood on its head. This story is set in the old country. Hershel is a blind boy from a poor family. His father is dead and he and his mother struggle to get by. Though Hershel is blind, he can do many things. He carries wood and water for his mother, goes to school, and even catches frogs which he uses to frighten the old rabbi, his teacher. Yet Hershel worries how he will find a place in the world when he is a man. This is a realistic and satisfying tale as Hershel proves his abilities to his mother and the entire village. His perserverance, cleverness and faith in himself win the day and his place in the community is assured. The text of this book is quite meaty, good for children with the attention span for a wordier picture book. The story of Queen Esther and other holiday traditions are explained in the back.

Hanukkah! - - by Roni Schotter Marylin Hafner; Little Brown & Co, 1993. This is one of those books I just want to crawl inside and live in. The house is comfortably messy, filled with art projects and skylights and Hanukkah mobiles. The family's love for each other shines on every page, and the illustrations glow with color and warmth.

In darkest December Night steals in early And whisks away the light. But warm inside, Mama, Papa, and Grandma Rose, Light the sun...
From these opening lines this cozy Hanukkah tale sets the mysterious dark of night against luminous interiors. The first illustration shows a city street scene, in a quiet Jewish neighborhood just after sunset. A street lamp sheds a pool of light, shops and apartments glow cheerfully yellow, the sunset sky sparkles with stars and a huge moon glows overhead. The next page takes you into the cozy home of this cheerful, loving family. While Grandma lights the menorah, that huge crescent moon and sparkly stars still shine through the window, and the children look on with wide eyes. The family then scatters to make gifts, then come together again to eat, dance, sing, play, and finally trot off to bed with full tummies. This is one of those books I just want to crawl inside and live in. The house is comfortably messy, filled with art projects and skylights and Hanukkah mobiles. The family's love for each other shines on every page, and the illustrations glow with color and warmth. This is a great story for a young child who is just starting to understand the meaning of the holiday, but older kids will enjoy its warmth and gentle humour as well.

Mrs. Katz and Tush - - by Patricia Polacco Bantam Books, 1992. A Jewish widow and an African-American boy celebrate the feast of Passover and develop a lifelong friendship. This beautiful book operates on many levels. It is the story of a lifelong friendship between Mrs. Katz, a lonely Jewish widow and her neighbor Larnel, an African-American boy. They become friends when Larnel gives Mrs. Katz a kitten whom she dubs Tush. As their friendship grows, Mrs. Katz shares shares stories of her immigrant past and of anti-semitism. She and Larnel talk about their common history of slavery and oppression. Mrs. Katz explains many Jewish traditions in a simple and non-judgemental fashion. For example, when Larnel wonders why Mrs. Katz has so many dishes, she explains "Because some Jews don't eat dairy and meat off the same dishes." I am always on the lookout for good multi-cultural books and this is one of my favorites. Mrs. Katz and Larnel are both very realistic characters. Their inner-city neighborhood vibrates with warmth and community spirit. Issues of racial and cultural differences are handled with compassion, humour and optimism. The traditional Passover themes of freedom, and of sharing our heritage are beautifully demonstrated. The ending never fails to bring tears to my eyes. This book is so rich with nuance and detail, with life and hope. Some of the most complex and challenging themes in modern life are distilled down to a simple story. And that, after all, is what the best children's literature is all about.

The Borrowed Hanukkah Latkes - - by Linda Glaser; illustrated by Nancy Cote Albert Whitman & Company, 1997. A determined little girl overcomes an elderly neighbor's stubborness in this joyful tale of sharing and multigenerational friendship. Mrs. Greenberg, who lives next door to Rachel, "has a heart of gold but is as stubborn as an ox", according to Rachel's mother. But Rachel can be pretty determined herself as this warm and lively tale of sharing between neighbors unfolds. Rachel's house is bursting with relatives and food. Mrs. Greenberg is all alone but repeatedly turns down Rachel's invitations because she doesn't want to be a bother. Mrs. Greenberg doesn't realize it at first but she's met her match; Rachel is at least as stubborn as she is. Rachel's combination of sensitivity, creativity and pluck as she breaks down Mrs. Greenberg's resisitance is both amusing and deeply touching. Generous humour is sprinkled throughout and the high energy gouache illustrations keep things lively; Rachel dances across the pages, her pigtails flying and her feet barely touching the ground. This is a truly special book about the things that matter most to us during the holidays; food of course, but also community, friendship, love and sharing, most especially sharing of ourselves.

The Chanukkah Guest - - by Eric A. Kimmel Giora Carmi; Holiday House, 1992. This book resonates with gentle humour. The story is somewhat wordy for a young child, but there're lots of opportunities to growl and grunt like a bear which should keep young listeners delighted.The story is somewhat fantastic, but not at all scary. Bubba Brayna is ninety-seven years old and doesn't see or hear as well as she used to. Old Bear is sleeping cozily in his den, when he is awakened by the delicious scent of Bubba Brayna's latkes. Old Bear comes to call, Bubba Brayna mistakes him for the rabbi, and invites him in. Old bear then grunts and growls his way through the blessings, eats up all the latkes and leaves with a warm scarf wrapped around his neck. Set in a European shtetl of some undefined past era, this book resonates with gentle humour. The story is somewhat wordy for a young child, but there's lots of opportunities to growl and grunt like a bear which should keep young listeners delighted.The story is somewhat fantastic, but not at all scary ( I don't know why so many old country tales for kids are filled with ghosts and dybbucks but alas it is so). The art is light and airy, and evokes the deep snow and chill of winter. At the end, when Bubba Brayna realizes that she has just spent the evening entertaining a wild bear, she responds with a generous giggle. "That was a very clever bear... or a very foolish Bubba Brayna. Ah well, let the bear have a happy Chanukkah. I had a happy Channukah too." Would that we could all share her staunchness it the face of the unexpected, especially around the holidays. Martha Stewart would be proud.

The Trees Of the Dancing Goats - - The Trees Of the Dancing Goats by Patricia Polacco Simon & Schuster, 1996. A Jewish family spreads holiday cheeer when their gentile neighbors are stricken with scarlett fever. Set in a midwestern farm community in the first half of this century, this lovely fable depicts a Jewish family as they prepare for Hanukkah; Grandma dips menorah candles, Grandpa carves wooden animals to give as gifts, and the whole family helps to prepare a feast including, of course, lots of latkes. But when their non-jewish neighbors are stricken with scarlett fever, Grandma and Grandpa turn into Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus, bringing food and decorated trees in the middle of the night to all the sick families. This is a great book because it honors both Christmas and Hanukkah traditions, and celebrates a vibrant, rural community made of Christians and Jews helping each other out. Based on a true story from the author's childhood, it depicts a multi-generational family with a single working mother at its center. Patricia Polacco's illustrations are earthy and powerful, filled with an energy and a life-force that sets her apart from most children's illustrators. For children who can listen to a longer story, this is sure to become a holiday favorite.

 

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