Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, 2006
The following reviews were presented in the 2006 feature on this topic.
The Adventures of Aliza and Dovid: Holidays at the Farm
Illustrated by Tova Katz
This addition to the holiday cycle shelf focuses on preparations for the various festivals through the year. Each of the five short chapters identifies a farm product needed to perform the mitzvot of the particular festival. Twins Aliza and Dovid take part in collecting the ingredients, from honey for Rosh Hashanah through milk for Shavuot, on their uncle Shlomo's farm. In each story we learn the significance of the product and a bit about the holiday. The illustrations are reminiscent of Dina Rosenfeld's books, with bright colors and lively activities that are truly relevant. Young children can learn where our foods come from--like what it means to press olives for oil--and other farm-related activities. While the relationship between agriculture and halacha is clearly developed, I had some qualms about this volume. First, the children's behavior is old-fashioned. Aliza is always afraid and uncertain, and Dovid is alternately brave, foolish, or smart. In 2006, we should be aware of these issues. Also, while I enjoyed the colorful and relevant illustrations, the faces are more caricature than real, and occasionally seem to leer rather than smile. With those concerns in mind, the book can be used with preschool and kindergarten children. Category: Holidays. 2005, Mesorah, 48p., $10.99. Ages 2 to 6. Reviewer: Fred Isaac (Association of Jewish Libraries Newsletter, May/June 2006 (Vol. 25, No. 4)).
Apples and Honey: A Rosh Hashanah Story
Illustrated by Jan Barger Cohen
Charming characters carry the very young reader through the basics of celebrating Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. We learn the custom of wearing something new for the holiday; of dipping apples in honey for “sweet times ahead;” of greeting friends on the way to synagogue services; of listening to the one hundred sounds blown on the shofar (explained in the back Notes as “a ram’s horn…a bit like a trumpet…very hard to blow…takes lots of practice”). We also learn about the ceremony of Tashlich, “say(ing) goodbye to the sad things from last year by throwing crumbs into the river;” eating a pomegranate; and looking at the new crescent moon. Endnotes add additional information and explain more about a central portion of the services, the shofar. The pictures are a delight--pastel watercolors of happy people doing things they really enjoy together. Part of Barron’s “Festival Time!” series, which also includes stories for Chanukah, Passover and Purim, this book is sure to be requested again and again. 2002, Barron’s, Ages 2 to 6, $6.95.Reviewer: Judy Chernak
Illustrations by Laurie McGaw
How many of us have seen a portrait or photograph of some historical figure or ancestor with the stern look and long beard sported in those bygone days? And how many of us have recoiled, not knowing anything about the person portrayed except that we didn’t like him? Mark has had a similar feeling since his earliest childhood towards his great-great-grandfather Avram, for whom he is named. And, worse luck, that scary picture is slated to hang in the hallway right outside his bedroom in the new home that is almost built. By contrast, Mark really loves his grandfather Morris, who will soon be coming for Rosh Hashanah. How Mark learns about his grandfather’s love for his own grandfather, the Avram in the picture, and about the gift he received from him as a young man leaving Europe for the New World, is a touching and intriguing story. The holiday traditions are nicely woven into the story of two Avrams, the old country one and the present day one, and tie together with Mark’s dream of becoming a really good shofar blower in the synagogue. Artist McGaw’s pictures are flawless--one could step right into them and feel at home. Set in the author’s hometown in suburban Washington, D. C. and with ties to her original home in Baltimore, MD, the book is filled with references to details that keep the story authentic and nostalgic at the same time. A wonderful choice for those long holiday afternoons, the book is sure to spark questions about family history and legacies left to future generations. 2003, MB Publishing, Ages 8 to 11, $19.95. Reviewer: Judy Chernak
Beliefs and Cultures: Jewish
This book is part of a series on the world's major religions. It touts itself as "an information and activity book." There is quite a lot of good information in it, including an explanation of the origins of Judaism, and descriptions of the Torah, the Temple, synagogues, and holidays and rites. There is also a chapter on persecution and anti-Semitism. A short glossary and index are included at the end of the book. The activities, which include making up your own ten commandments, baking challah and making a Rosh Hashanah card, are not particularly imaginative, but all the subjects are handled very well and include clear color photographs and good illustrations. I would recommend the book for ages ten and up. Anyone who wants a basic overview of Judaism would benefit from it. Category: Judaism. 2005, Sea-to-Sea Publications, 32 pp.,. Ages 10 to adult. Reviewer: Kathe S. Pinchuck (Association of Jewish Libraries Newsletter, February/March 2005 (Vol. 24, No. 3)).
A Box of Candles
Illustrated by Shelly Schonebaum Ephraim
For Ruthie's seventh birthday, Grandma Gussie gives her a box of candles, enough to light one on every Shabbat and every holiday. The Jewish year forms a framework for the story of Ruthie's learning to accept her grandmother's budding romance with a neighbor and the growth of her own friendship with old Mr. Adler. It is told in the present tense, lending immediacy to the events and allowing readers to live each moment of Ruthie's year of maturation. The emotions portrayed are very true to life, from the child's initial resentment to her eventual caring. While the pacing is somewhat slow, it is a joy to watch the relationships evolve. The story feels like a series of snapshots capturing moments in time. While Ruthie's family is quite observant, this is actually a "culturally neutral" book: the core story of the relationships between Ruthie, Grandma Gussie, and Mr. Adler is not dependent upon their Jewish identity. The Jewish flavor of the story is strong, however, with Jewish ritual apparent on almost every page. The author manages to integrate Jewish observance into Ruthie's daily life without disruptive explanatory passages. Jewish terms are well defined in a glossary at the back. The illustrations are somewhat naïve, but quite expressive, clearly depicting the action described in the text. This pleasant picture book works as a round-up of Jewish holidays and would make a good bibliotherapy book for a child whose adult relatives are forming new relationships. Familiarity with Jewish holidays is assumed, making it most useful with Jewish audiences. Recommended for libraries with large picture book budgets. For grades K-3. Category: Holidays And Rituals. 2005, Boyds Mills Press, 38pp., $17.95. Ages 5 to 9. Reviewer: Heidi Estrin (Association of Jewish Libraries Newsletter, September/October 2005 (Vol. 25, No. 1)).
This is a sweet story about a child's relationship with her grandmother. For Ruthie's seventh birthday, her Grandma Gussie gives her a box of candles and a silver candlestick. The candles will last a whole year. She will be able to light a candle for each Shabbat and every Jewish holiday, and when the box is empty, she will be eight years old. Ruthie is a typical seven-year-old. She likes her life the way it is, and hopes it will never change. But one Friday night there is a guest for Shabbat dinner. Mr. Adler knew Grandma in elementary school, and he seems to be replacing Ruthie in Grandma's affections. She does not like him at all. But as the year passes Ruthie learns to accept Mr. Adler. She helps in his garden, when he gets a new puppy she plays with it, they go to synagogue together at Rosh Hashanah, she makes presents at Hanukkah and Mr. Adler helps her learn to skate. By Purim, Ruthie is ready to celebrate a wedding. She will have a new grandpa--Zayde Sam--by her birthday. The candles are all gone, and Ruthie has found that changes are not so bad after all. And the reader has learned something about Jewish holidays. Recommended. 2005, Boyd's Mills Press, $17.95. Ages 5 to 8. Reviewer: Judy Silverman (Children's Literature).
Notable Children's Books of Jewish Content, 2006; Association of Jewish Librraies; United States
Every Day's a Holiday: Amusing Rhymes for Happy Times
Illustrated by Phil Parks
This is a book every elementary teacher needs to own. Why? Because it contains amusing rhymes for just about every occasion. There are poems for major holidays like Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Labor Day, Valentine's Day, and Martin Luther King Day. The list does not stop there. It also contains poems celebrating lesser known, but equally important holidays such as Snow Day, Gravity Day, Carnival Day, and Troll Day. Every teacher knows that losing a tooth at school is a big deal, so this book contains a poem to celebrate that too! This collection makes poetry accessible to young kids. It is also easy to integrate into the classroom curriculum because of the topics. It can be used to inspire kids to write humorous poetry or to expand their knowledge of holidays. Another positive aspect of this collection is the drawings. The artist has created engaging black and write drawings that enhance the poetry and capture its humor. The best thing about this book is that Koontz includes a poem for the most important school holiday of all--the last day of school. Who doesn't want to celebrate that? 2003, HarperCollins, $17.99, Ages 6 to 12. Reviewer: Louise Parsons (Children's Literature).
Hammerin' Hank: The Story of Hank Greenberg
Yona Zeldis McDonough
Illustrations by Malcah Zeldis.
Among the pantheon of American Jewish heroes, Hank Greenberg stands tall. Not only was he 6'3" by the time he was thirteen, but his determination, ability, and decency set him apart from many (most?) athletes. There are other juvenile biographies of Greenberg but this is the first that it is accessible to younger children. As in the other collaborations between this mother and daughter team, McDonough's writing is clear, concrete, and amplified by many quotes. Zeldis's well-known folk art style brings the characters and setting to life. Vivid colors and strongly composed pictures convey both action and a taste for the times in which Greenberg lived, from scenes of ballparks, billboards, and players to the clothing people wore and the neighborhood in which the Greenberg family lived. Starting with his childhood as one of four children of observant Jewish immigrants, the narrative emphasizes his love of baseball, his family's disapproval, the obstacles he overcame, his successes in the field, his wartime service, and his later years. His decision to play on Rosh Hashanah, but not on Yom Kippur, during the 1934 American League pennant race is here for readers to ponder, as is his support for Jackie Robinson, who suffered from the same sort of on and off the field prejudice that Greenberg himself experienced. Each double-page spread has a full-bleed illustration and a piece of spot art, all slightly stylized and somewhat marred, in this reviewer's opinion, by the strange red noses that Zeldis attaches to most of the characters. Providing some context to the story of Hammerin' Hank's life are endpapers with baseball cards of other Jewish baseball players, Hank Greenberg's vital statistics, a chronology of his life, and a glossary of both baseball and Jewish terms. Highly recommended for grades 2 to 4. Category: Biography/autobiography. 2006, Walker, 32p., $16.95. Ages 7 to 10. Reviewer: Linda R. Silver (Association of Jewish Libraries Newsletter, May/June 2006 (Vol. 25, No. 4)).
School Library Journal Book Review Stars, April 2006; Cahners; United States
Happy Birthday, World: A Rosh Hashanah Celebration
Latifa Berry Kropf
Illustrated by Lisa Carlson
First board books have as their mission the introduction of elementary concepts to very young children, and this one does its job very cleverly. By beginning, "Everyone celebrates a birthday. Guess what special birthday it is?" the author hooks any child from the outset. She then continues with the alternating refrain of "On your birthday, you..." and "On this birthday, we..." to introduce a toddler to Rosh Hashanah's basic customs. Apples dipped in honey, lighting candles "but you don't blow them out," blowing the shofar, giving charity, and going to synagogue are all covered. And the uncluttered illustrations also include the custom of tashlich, throwing crumbs of bread into a stream to suggest tossing our sins away before the new year. Sturdy and colorful, this book makes a nice choice for the very young at holiday time. 2005, Kar-Ben, $5.95. Ages 1 to 3. Reviewer: Judy Chernak (Children's Literature).
I Only Like What I Like
Dewey Jackson Braintree-Berg is a controlling little guy with a great imagination. He knows a good thing when he sees it though, and is always looking for new ways to "like" the unfamiliar. When he doesn't get what he wants, he imagines it is something else. That way he stays in charge--and gets to eat his honeyed apples--without giving in to the grown-ups. Minimal text and cut-out collage set a young child's struggle for identity against a backdrop of Jewish custom. Baer's images are most successful with animals and objects. Her colors are warm and comforting. Her words describe Friday night candles and Sabbath pizza, and share inside jokes between a parent and child. Written in first person (with a perspective switch at bedtime), Dewey shows families how to stay flexible and welcome new experiences together. Also a nice title for teachers and media specialists in search of kindergarten stories at Rosh Hashanah. 2003, Bollix Books, $15.99. Ages 4 to 8. Reviewer: Tina Dybvik (Children's Literature).
•Best of the Bunch, 2003; Association of Jewish Librarians; United States
Illustrated by Ari Binus
In a small Orthodox shul in Brooklyn, a strange man known only as Izzy comes every Shabbos and yom tov to perform the special honor of unrolling and lifting the Torah. After many years, and despite his old age and weakened physical state, he demands to continue to perform hagbah until one Yom Kippur morning he collapses and dies with the Torah crashing down onto the floor on top of him. But a magical and mysterious event occurs: Izzy's spirit floats above the congregation along with all of the letters and words from the Torah, leaving the scroll completely blank. This poorly-edited story has an unnecessary narrator whose comments slow it down and break up the pace. And while the narrator admits that no one in the congregation ever asked Izzy his last name, where he lived, or what he did for living, and no one ever invited him for a Shabbos or holiday meal because he was different from them--"he dressed differently ... he spoke English ... he wore a strange yarmulke and a funny tallis ... he just wasn't one of us"--there is no exploration of the insensitive, prejudiced, and unwelcoming behavior of the congregants, leaving the story with no real moral or message. The in-your-face illustrations by Ari Binus (Hayyim's Ghost, Pitspopany, 2004) successfully capture the setting, mood, and characters of the story. However, Jewish terms and rituals are never explained, further limiting the audience of this offbeat but disappointing story that fails to reach its full potential. For grades 1-3. Category: Judaism. 2005, Pitspopany, 36p., $16.95. Ages 6 to 9. Reviewer: Rachel Kamin (Association of Jewish Libraries Newsletter, February/March 2006 (Vol. 25, No. 3)).
Jewish Holidays All Year Round: A Family Treasury
Illustrated by Elivia Savadier in association with the Jewish Museum, New York
An impressive reference work, this is a warm and welcoming resource for Jewish families and for educators who wish to share the Jewish culture with their young charges. Cooper explains the history behind holidays such as Simchat Torah, Shavuot, Tisha B'Av, Rosh Hashanah and that weekly holiday, the Sabbath. But she does more than offer just the facts; the author imbues each chapter with meaning and reverence. Cooper also provides special family activities for each holiday, enabling parents to create warm and meaningful traditions. Savadier's pen-and-ink illustrations are a colorful counterpoint to Cooper's storytelling; the book is also plentifully illustrated by exquisite works of art from The Jewish Museum in New York. Each chapter would make a good read-aloud before the holiday in question occurs, but older children may want to use it as a reference work for school reports or simply to read about the history of their people. 2002, Harry N. Abrams, $18.95, Ages 4 up. Reviewer: Donna Freedman (Children's Literature)
•Best of the Bunch, 2002; Association of Jewish Librarians; United States
•Children's Catalog, Eighteenth Edition, Supplement, 2003; H.W. Wilson; United States
•Publishers Weekly Book Review Stars, September 30, 2002; Cahners; United States
Awards, Honors, Prizes:
•National Jewish Book Awards Winner 2002-2003 Children and Young Adult Literature United States
My Rosh Hashanah
This series of religious festivals is presented as a child's diary of the celebration--preparations, special foods, special gifts. The photographs are warm, lively portrayals of a single family practicing a particular faith--Christianity (Christmas), Divali (Hindu), Id-al-Fitr (Muslim), Rosh Hashanah and Hanukkah (Jewish). However, there is no explanation of any of the holidays or the traditions--such as the meaning of the ram's horn or the connection between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. This means the unique nature of each holiday is left out and there is a certain sameness to all the holidays--families get together, give presents to each other and eat a big meal together. There is a short glossary and index but no explanatory text for teachers or parents. Classes with children representing diverse faith traditions might find the series useful as a model for children to make scrapbooks of their own family and religious celebrations, but every book in the series needs additional information to be complete. 2004, Raintree, $18.56, Ages 3 to 6. Reviewer: Karen Leggett (Children's Literature).
On Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur
Cathy Goldberg Fishman
Illustrations by Melanie W. Hall
More than just a description of the Jewish New Year holidays, this book tells the story of one family's celebration through the eyes of the youngest daughter. It is this young narrator who tells not only about her family's rituals and their religious significance; but also of her feelings about the celebrations and how they help bring her closer to God. The sepia tone collage illustrations match the mood of the book perfectly and somehow provide a comforting sense of universality to this thorough description of one people's important holiday. The appended glossary will help readers of all ages decode and understand the unfamiliar Hebrew words used in the text. 1997, Atheneum/Simon & Schuster, Ages 5 up, $16.00. Reviewer: Judy Katsh
The Opposites of My Jewish Year
Illustrated by Julie Olson
Joining the other successful "Very First Board Books" from Kar-Ben is this new offering with its opposites concepts. Each holiday in the year is depicted with symbols that are opposing: Rosh Hashanah has the shofar for LOUD and the prayer for QUIET; for Yom Kippur, "the fish was BIG, Jonah was LITTLE." This continues on through Sukkot, the harvest holiday; Simchat Torah, when the Torah is completed and begun again; Hanukkah with its candles; Tu B'Shevat, the New Year of the Trees; Purim with its masks and costumes; Passover with its favorite Seder traditions; Shavuot, the anniversary of the giving of the Torah to Israel and Shabbat with "this matzah ball is IN the soup, this matzah ball bounced OUT." Youngsters will delight in repeating the ups and downs, open and closed, and other illustrations of opposites, and the illustrations are quite adorable. A great gift for any time of the year, since each holiday is covered with its own page. 2005, Kar-Ben, $5.95. Ages 1 to 3. Reviewer: Judy Chernak (Children's Literature).
The Shapes of my Jewish Year
Pictures by Sally Springer
This is a clever concept book that utilizes primary shapes and bright colors to connect with various aspects of the Jewish holidays throughout the annual cycle. A bright yellow circle is "a plump Matzah ball wading in steamy Shabbat soup...the shiny red apple I eat with honey on Rosh Hashanah...and the kiddush cup when I look down from the top" seeing purple grape juice enclosed in the shape of a round wine cup. Several other holidays--Sukkot, Tu B'Shevat, Passover, Hanukkah, Purim, and Simchat Torah--illustrate the oval, square, rectangle and triangle while focusing on important symbols that children will recognize. The text is necessarily quite limited and there is no glossary, so some knowledge of Jewish customs would be helpful to the reader; but the pictures are cute and graphic, so that children should have no trouble identifying the shapes. This sturdy board book is likely to become a toddler's favorite--Kar-Ben has another winner. 2003, Kar-Ben, $4.95, Ages 1 to 4. Reviewer: Judy Chernak (Children's Literature).
Sound the Shofar! A Story for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur
Pictures by John Himmelman
In this easy to understand story, a family is preparing to celebrate the Days of Awe (Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur). All of the symbols and the meaning of the holiday ( a time to reflect on ones actions of the past year and hopes and prayers for a happy next year) are clearly explained. Uncle Jake practices blowing the shofar, because he has been selected to blow it at the beginning of the New Year and at the conclusion of the holiday. A good introduction for young children with scenes and character that they will be able to relate to. 1998, HarperCollins, Ages 3 to 6, $12.95. Reviewer: Marilyn Courtot
The World's Birthday: A Rosh Hashanah Story
Barbara Diamond Goldin
Illustrated by Jeannette Winter
This gentle tale celebrates one family's welcoming of the Jewish New Year. Goldin writes warmly about this family, their traditions (both old and new), their teamwork, and cooperation. That she manages to do all of this while depicting her characters as both individual and universal is a tribute to her skills as a writer and to the power of her story. 1995 (orig. 1990), Harcourt, Ages 4 to 10, $14.00 and $5.00. Reviewer: Judy Katsh
A Sweet Year: A Taste of the Jewish Holidays
As a nice Jewish girl who actually spent one of the nights of Rosh Hashanah watching a stage production of Jesus Christ Superstar, I appreciated this small book that dedicates a page to each holiday then mentions some of the food that is eaten and why. For Rosh Hashanah, pomegranates are eaten, since they are said to have 613 seeds to make the 613 commandments of the Torah. For Purim the soft (watercolor?) illustrations show children walking in costumes that make them look like hamantaschen, three-sided pastries with fruit centers. There is a short explanation of the holidays at the back of the book in addition to a good bibliography, if the book has "whetted your appetite" for more information. Obviously this is a good book in our house, but I think it's good in any house or classroom where you want to know more about other cultures in a simple and accessible way. 2003, Doubleday Books for Young Readers, $12.95 and $14.99, Ages 3 to 8. Reviewer: Sharon Levin (Children's Literature).
•Best of the Bunch, 2003; Association of Jewish Librarians; United States
•Children's Catalog, Eighteenth Edition, Supplement, 2004; H.W. Wilson
When the Chickens Went On Strike: A Rosh Hashanah Tale
Adapted from a story by Sholom Aleichem
Illustrations by Matthew Trueman "Customs come and customs go. I learned this from chickens." So begins this lively folktale based on one written by Sholom Aleichem, of Fiddler on a Roof fame. Set in a small village in Russia, our main character is a lively young boy determined to improve his behavior. This year the chickens are actively rebelling against a custom called "Kapores." The chickens explain this to our hero: "every year at this time, the villagers use us for a strange custom. They grab us and twirl us over their heads. They mumble strange words. They think this will take away their bad deeds." When the chickens manage to escape this fate, thereby changing this custom, our narrator manages to think before he acts, and stay out of mischief. The glowing illustrations exude energy, from the chicken laden end papers, to the subtle touches such as "freedom for fowl" printed in a picture frame made to look like Hebrew letters, and greatly enhance the exuberant text. 2003, Dutton, $15.99, Ages 6 to 10. Reviewer: Micki S. Nevett (Children's Literature).
•Children's Catalog, Eighteenth Edition, Supplement, 2004; H.W. Wilson
•Choices, 2004; Cooperative Children's Book Center; United States
Awards, Honors, Prizes:
•Sydney Taylor Book Awards Honor Book 2003 Younger Readers United States
The White Ram: A Story of Abraham and Isaac
Gerstein draws on the Old Testament Bible story of Abraham, asked by God to sacrifice his son Isaac. But the focus is on the white ram which was made by God, according to legends, in the twilight of the first Sabbath. Even after Adam and Eve are expelled, the ram is told by God to wait in the Garden of Eden until called. Finally, when God calls, the Devil tries to stop the ram, saying it will mean his death. The Devil in various forms keeps trying to delay him, but the ram runs on, knowing he must save the child. At the top of the mountain where Abraham is preparing to sacrifice Isaac, he hears God telling Abraham to sacrifice the ram instead. And it is the horn of the ram that is blown on the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah, to remind God to forgive all his children's children "till the end of time." Gerstein uses pen and ink, oil paint, and colored pencil for his scenes of the obedient ram, which begin in Eden. A series of inventive Evil Ones, ugly and threatening, try to stop him. Because of the Jewish prohibition of visualizing God, the skies in these scenes have cloud formations which suggest hands and even perhaps His face. The visual sequences are successful in conveying both spirituality and powerful action in believable contexts. Gerstein adds a brief background note. 2006, Holiday House, Ages 6 to 10, $16.95. Reviewer: Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz (Children's Literature).
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