Featured Reviews

Look around, just look around! Hamaavir sheinah meieinai, ut’numah meiafapai/ Who removes sleep from the eyes, slumber from the eyelids

Books used in this review are from my personal library or were provided by my local public library. I am an Amazon Affiliate. If you click on a book title referred to on my website and purchase it from Amazon, I may receive a very small commission on your purchase. You will incur no additional cost, however. I appreciate your support.

. _____________________________________________________________________ .

 We are on the ninth blessing of the Nisim B’Chol Yom/the blessings for daily miracles recited during morning prayers:

“Praise to You, Adonai our God, Sovereign of the universe,

Who removes sleep from the eyes, slumber from the eyelids.”

Passover begins in one week, on the evening of Monday, April 14 with the first Seder. This blessing is such an interesting way to begin the Passover season. Because I am always a bit stressed out as I prepare my home for the Seder we host every year, I tend to get lost in all the details of writing our Haggadah, planning the menu, figuring out how the plagues are going to be presented, and of course, who we are inviting and who is coming. I am reading tons of material to make this year’s Seder different from last year’s. I am blinded by the amount of effort that goes into all of this.

Reading this blessing reminds me that I must not go through this with my eyes closed! In fact, I must remember this Bible story:

“Now Moses, tending the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian, drove the flock into the wilderness, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. An angel of Adonai appeared to him in a blaze of fire out of a bush. He gazed, and there was a bush all aflame, yet the bush was not consumed. Moses said, “I must turn aside to look at this marvelous sight; why doesn’t the bush burn up? When Adonai saw that he had turned aside, God called to him out of the bush: “Moses! Moses!” He answered, “Here I am.” And God said, “Do not come closer. Remove your sandals from your feet, for the place on which you stand is holy ground…” (Exodus 3:1-5)  

What made Moses notice the bush in the first place? Then, once noticed, look deeper to see that the bush was burning, yet not consumed? Moses’ eyes were clearly wide open! How many things might we be missing in a day as we drive to work, rush through our daily tasks, and hurry to get home? It is spring (finally!) here on the east coast – the trees are blooming, the birds are singing. Let’s thank God for eyes that can see and stop and take some time to notice the beautiful world around us.

Happy Reading and Happy Passover!

Kathy B.

 

SeeWhaleIf You Want to See a Whale by Julie Folgliano. Illustrated by Erin E. Stead. ©2013. Roaring Brook Press. Ages 3-8.  In this beautiful book, children will learn about all the things they should not see while searching for a whale. Oh, but during that search, there is so much to look at while you wait…and wait…and wait…

 

kinglittlethings

The King of Little Things by Bill Lepp. Illustrated by David T. Wenzel. ©2013. Peachtree Publishers. Ages 4-8.  Have you ever heard about “the little things”?  How important they are? How you need to pay attention to them? In this story, a very big king thought he could overlook the little things and learned a very big lesson.

 

manviolinThe Man with the Violin by Kathy Stinson. Illustrated by Dušan Petričić. ©2013. Annick Press, Ltd. Ages 4-8. Dylan heard the music playing in the train station, and he was transformed. He wanted to stop and listen, but his mother was in a hurry. They rushed to meet their train, they rushed to do their chores, they rushed all through their day, as the music continued to play in Dylan’s head.  When Dylan heard the music again, on the radio, he grabbed his mother from the kitchen and made her listen—to Joshua Bell playing beautiful music on his Stradivarius violin. Based on a true story.

 

Ferdinand

The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf. Illustrated by Robert Lawson. ©1936. Grosset & Dunlap. Ages 4-10. The classic story about a friendly bull who does not want to fight anyone, he just wants to sit—quietly and peacefully—under his favorite tree and smell the flowers all day long.

 

ZoomZoom Written and illustrated by Istvan Banyai. ©1998. Puffin. Ages 4-9. Look at the first picture, and what do you see? A rooster on a farm, so this is a book about a farm! Better keep zooming…As with all things in life, how you see something is all about perspective.

 

 

©2014 Kathleen M. Bloomfield and forwordsbooks.com. All rights reserved.

No Comments »

A well to draw from: hanotein layaeif koach/ who gives strength to the weary

Books used in this review are from my personal library or were provided by my local public library. I am an Amazon Affiliate. If you click on a book title referred to on my website and purchase it from Amazon, I may receive a very small commission on your purchase. You will incur no additional cost, however. I appreciate your support.

. ________________________________________________________________ .

 We are on the eighth blessing of the Nisim B’Chol Yom/the blessings for daily miracles recited during morning prayers:

 “Praise to You, Adonai our God, Sovereign of the universe,

Who strengthens the weary.”

 In October 2000, my sister and I walked the Avon 3-Day Breast Cancer Walk (Back then it was a 3-day, 60 Mile walk!) in honor of our mother z’l, a survivor of breast cancer. The walk began in Santa Barbara, CA and ended in Malibu, CA. It was an incredible experience. One I hope to participate in again someday.

Along with fundraising, I trained for the walk for months ahead of time. However, no amount of training could have prepared us for the massive rain storm that hit the coast of California the Sunday morning of our walk. My sister and I were determined to finish, in spite of the rain, but we had different walking styles. We therefore agreed to split up (she being the faster walker), meet at the designated rest stop one mile before the end and walk that last mile together.

I walked…and walked…and walked. 20 miles is a long walk in the best of weather, but with rain pouring down and wind blowing around and the temperature dropping by the minute, those 20 miles felt like 1000. Still, I walked. And I prayed, really I sang to myself, Debbie Friedman’s (z’l) Mi Shebeirach, over and over, to give myself the strength and courage to take the next step, then the next. It was amazing to me, how much strength I gained from singing and walking, as if I had a well inside me  filled with energy from which to draw whatever strength I needed to continue. During that time, I felt I could actually walk to the moon and back!

While I did not make it to the moon, or to the finish line (another long story,) I was given the strength to walk 59 miles on my own two feet for this very important cause. Mi Shebeirach has become my anthem for any situations in which I find myself low on reserves, but in need of strength to continue the task at hand. I hope you will find a similar talisman for the trying times life often throws along life’s journey.

Happy Reading!

Kathy B.

 

BraveIreneBrave Irene Written and Illustrated by William Steig. ©1986. Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Ages 6-10. Irene’s mother has made a most beautiful dress for The Duchess to wear at tonight’s Ball, but she is too sick to deliver it. Can Irene make it through the blizzard and deliver the dress before it is needed? Irene is loving, strong and brave…so of course she can!

 

 The Little Engine that Could. Retold By Watty Piper. Illustrated by George & Doris Hauman. ©1930. 1976. Grosset & Dunlap. Ages 2-8.  In this classic story, a little train helps get a cLittleEngineargo of charming, fun toys and delicious, healthy food to the good girls and boys on the other side of the mountain. “I think I can. I think I can….I thought I could. I thought I could!” A timeless message for young children.

 

ManTowersThe Man Who walked Between the Towers. Written and illustrated by Mordicai Gerstein. ©2003. Roaring Brook Press. Ages 5-9.  Imagine your goal is to walk on a tightrope as high in the air as you possibly can. There was a young man who did this once. He walked between the Twin Towers in New York City, NY. Why, how and what happened after he did it are all beautifully explained and drawn in this Caldecott Award winning picture book.

 

SparrowGirl

Sparrow Girl. Written by Sarah Pennypacker. Illustrated by Yoko Tanaka. ©2009. Disney-Hyperion Books. Ages 5-9. What do you do when you are small and young and someone older and, supposedly, wiser tells you to do something that you know is wrong? When Mao Tse-Tung declared a war on sparrows in China, 1958, Ming-Li knew there would be problems, so she quietly, secretly and courageously saved 7 sparrows. However, the lack of sparrows to eat the insects caused a flourishing locust population that ate all the grain and China suffered a huge famine that killed over 40 million people. Except in Ming-Li’s town where 7 sparrows helped her village survive.

 

©2014 Kathleen M. Bloomfield and forwordsbooks.com. All rights reserved.

No Comments »

Keeping Out Winter’s Chill: Malbish Arumim/ Who Clothes the Naked

Books used in this review are from my personal library or were provided by my local public library. I am an Amazon Affiliate. If you click on a book title referred to on my website and purchase it from Amazon, I may receive a very small commission on your purchase. You will incur no additional cost, however. I appreciate your support.

. ________________________________________________________________ .

 

We are on the seventh blessing of the Nisim B’Chol Yom/the blessings for daily miracles recited during morning prayers:

 “Praise to You, Adonai our God, Sovereign of the universe,

Who clothes the naked.”

It is definitely winter in Washington, DC. The weather people are explaining that something called a Polar Vortex has moved into the region causing temperatures in the single digits with a wind chill that is below zero.  This California Girl has never been so cold. I am, therefore, layering on as many clothes as I can.

Yet I see people on the streets – old and young, working and homeless – who are not wearing nearly enough to keep out this kind of cold. The newspaper is filled with stories of overfilled shelters, underfunded elderly who cannot afford more heat, and homeless huddled on the streets around heating grates, alongside the stories of year end executive bonuses, corporate earnings and the so-called end of the recession or beginning of another one, depending on what you read. The Polar Vortex and Mother Nature care little about any of that. It’s winter, the snow is falling and the temperature is dropping, setting new records for cold! Since each of us contains a piece of God’s light inside of us (that is my belief, anyway,) buying some extra blankets, perhaps participating in a winter coat drive, and distributing the items to whoever needs them most in our communities is God’s way of “clothing the naked.” Just a thought.

Happy Reading!

Kathy B. 

 

LadyinBoxThe Lady in the Box. By Anne McGovern. Illustrated By Marni Backer. ©2004. Turtle Books. Ages 5-9.  During the snowy, winter holiday season, a brother and sister secretly try to help a woman they see sleeping in a box outside of their local deli. The deli owner wants the woman to move away from the warm front of his store. However, when their mother finds out what they are doing and the woman’s plight, she gets involved and changes everything.

Lily and the Paper Man. Written and illustrated by Rebecca Upjohn. ©2007. Second Story Press. Ages 6-10.  Lily is frightened when she sees a ragged, grumpy man sellingLilyPaperMan papers on the street one day. She insists that her mother take her home from school on the bus to avoid him.  When winter comes around,  Lily notices the man has holes in his shoes and coat, no socks and a thin shirt and pants. She realizes she cannot ignore him any longer and must do something to help.

RagCoat

The Rag Coat. Written and Illustrated By Lauren Mills. ©1991. Little Brown Books for Young Readers. Ages 5-9.  A young Appalachian girl must have a coat in order to attend school in the cold Appalachian Mountains. When the Quilting Mothers group creates a coat of clothing scraps, her classmates laugh at her, until she tells them the stories that accompany each piece of cloth.

ShelterCar

A Shelter in Our Car. by Monica Gunning. Illustrated by Elaine Pedlar. ©2004. Children’s Book Press. Ages 6-10. When 8-year-old Zettie’s father dies, she and her mother leave Jamaica and go to America in search of better opportunities. Harassed by police, bullied by her classmates and frightened by all that is happening around her, Zettie maintains her strength with the constant love and support of her mother. When eventually the tide turns, these two strong females are sure to leave a lasting impression on you and your family.

 

©2014 Kathleen M. Bloomfield and forwordsbooks.com. All rights reserved.

No Comments »

The 2014 Sydney Taylor Book Awards

The Association of Jewish Libraries announced the winners of the 2014 Sydney Taylor Book Awards this morning. This is a wonderful collection of the best Jewish children’s books published last year. While I have not read every single book on this list, I have read most of them, and I encourage you to locate these treasures in your local bookstore or library to bring home to your family. If you want to learn more about the authors and illustrators of these books, follow the Sydney Taylor Award Blog Tour that begins on February 16. Now for that announcement:

 

AJLlogo   SydneyGold

  2014 Sydney Taylor Book Awards Announced by AJL

 Laurel Snyder and Catia Chien, author and illustrator of The Longest Night:  A Passover Story, Patricia Polacco author and illustrator of The Blessing Cup, and Neal Bascomb, author of The Nazi Hunters:  How a Team of Spies and Survivors Captured the World’s Most Notorious Nazi, are the 2014 winners of the Sydney Taylor Book Award.

Younger Readers Award

LongNight

Snyderand Chien will receive the 2014 gold medal in the Sydney Taylor Book Award’s Younger Readers category for  The Longest Night:  A Passover Story, published by Schwartz & Wade, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books. Written in gentle verse, the tumultuous days leading up to the Jews flight from Egypt are described from the perspective of an unnamed slave girl in this beautifully illustrated story. It provides a unique introduction to the Passover holiday for young readers in an honest, but age-appropriate way. Committee member Charna Gross notes: “We all know about our history as slaves in Egypt, the ten plagues, the Exodus, and the splitting of the Red Sea. But in Snyder’s retelling, accompanied by Chien’sdream-like illustrations, we are somehow transported to the rusty red banks of the Nile, witnessing each plague. This book is a marvel.”

Older Readers Award

BlessingCupThe award in the Older Readers category will be presented to Patricia Polacco for The Blessing Cupa Paula Wiseman Book,  published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon & Schuster. In this prequel to The Keeping Quilt, Polacco shares the story of another treasured family heirloom. The miraculous journey of the remaining teacup from a china tea set, deliberately left behind when her Jewish ancestors were forced to leave Czarist Russia, from the shtetl to America will strike an emotional chord with readers. “I was moved to tears reading this book. The gorgeous illustrations and heartfelt story remind readers of the importance of sharing from generation to generation our own family histories and the incredible sacrifices made by our ancestors to start new lives in America,” said committee chair, Aimee Lurie. In 1988, The Keeping Quilt was the Sydney Taylor Book Award Winner for Younger Readers.
Teen Readers Award

NaziHuntNeal Bascomb will receive the 2014 gold medal in the Sydney Taylor Book Award’s Teen Readers category for The Nazi Hunters: How a Team of Spies and Survivors Captured the World’s Most Notorious Nazi published by Arthur A. Levine Books, an imprint of Scholastic. A stunning account of the spy mission to capture Adolf Eichmann by an elite team of Israeli spies is dramatically brought to life by Neal Bascomb.   According to committee member Barbara Krasner, “It is obvious that he spent decades conducting meticulous research on several continents to produce this winning and chilling narrative. Bascomb has set a new nonfiction gold standard for young readers.”

Honor BooksSydneySilver

Six Sydney Taylor Honor Books were named for 2014:

Honor Books for Younger Readers

Stones for Grandpa by Renee Londoner with illustrations by Martha Avillés. (Kar-Ben Publishing, a Division of Lerner Publications)

Rifka Takes a Bow by Betty Rosenberg Perlov with illustrations by Cosei Kawa. (Kar-Ben Publishing, a Division of Lerner Publications)

Honor Books for Older Readers

The Boy on the Wooden Box: How the Impossible Became Possible…on Schindler’s List by Leon Leyson with Marilyn J. Harran and Elisabeth B. Leyson (Atheneum Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division)

Dear Canada: Pieces of the Past: The Holocaust Diary of Rose Rabinowitz, Winnipeg, Manitoba, 1948 by Carol Matas (Scholastic Canada)

Honor Books for Teen Readers

Dancing in the Dark by Robyn Bavati (Flux, an imprint of Llewellyn Worldwide)

The War Within These Walls by Aline Sax with illustrations by Caryl Strzelecki and translated by Laura Watkinson (Eerdmans Books for Young Readers).

 

Notable Books

In addition to the medal-winners, the Award Committee designated thirteen Notable Books of Jewish Content for 2014.

Notable Books for Younger Readers

Benny’s Mitzvah Notes by Marc Lumer (Hachai Publishing)

Brave Girl: Clara and the Shirtwaist Makers’ Strike of 1909  by Michelle Markel with illustrations by Melissa Sweet (Balzer & Bray, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers)

The Cats on Ben Yehuda Street by Ann Redisch Stampler with illustrations by Francesca Carabelli (Kar-Ben Publishing, a division of Lerner Publishing Group, Inc.)

Hanukkah in Alaska by Barbara Brown with illustrations by Stacey Schuett (Henry Holt and Company, LLC)

The Passover Lamb by Linda Elovitz Marshall with illustrations by Tatjana Mai-Wyss (Random House Children’s Books, a division of Random House, Inc.)

Our Special New Baby by Chava Cohen with illustrations by Rivkie Braverman (Feldheim Publishers)

 

Notable Books for Older Readers

The Barefoot Book of Jewish Tales by Shoshana Boyd Gelfand with illustrations by Amanda Hall story CD narrated by Debra Messing (Barefoot Books Inc)

B.U.G (Big Ugly Guy) by Jane Yolem and Adam Stemple (Dutton’s Children Books, an imprint of Penguin Group USA Inc.)

Odette’s Secrets by Maryann Macdonald (Bloomsbury Children’s Books)

Touched by Fire by Irene N. Watts (Tundra Books)

When Hurricane Katrina Hit Home by Gail Langer Karwoski with illustrations by Julia Marshall (The History Press)

 

Notable Books for Teens

Helga’s Diary: A Young Girl’s Account of Life in a Concentration Camp by Helga Weisstranslated by Neil Bermel Introduction by Francine Prose (W.W. Norton & Company)

Lauren Yanofsky Hates the Holocaust by Leanne Lieberman (Orca Book Publishers)

More information about the Sydney Taylor Book Award can be found at www.SydneyTaylorBookAward.org.

Please join me in congratulating these extraordinary authors and illustrators on their achievement and thanking the Sydney Taylor Book Award Committee for the time and effort they put in to reaching this remarkable list of outstanding titles.

Happy Reading,

Kathy B.

 ©2014 Kathleen M. Bloomfield and forwordsbooks.com. All rights reserved.

No Comments »

The Four Corners of Our Feet: Hameichin Mitzadei Gaver/ Who Strengthens Our Steps

Books used in this review are from my personal library or were provided by my local public library. I am an Amazon Affiliate. If you click on a book title referred to on my website and purchase it from Amazon, I may receive a very small commission on your purchase. You will incur no additional cost, however. I appreciate your support.
. ________________________________________________________________ .

We are on the sixth blessing of the Nisim B’Chol Yom/the blessings for daily miracles recited during morning prayers:

 

“Praise to You, Adonai our God, Sovereign of the universe,

Who strengthens our steps.”

 

For a number of reasons, I recently began practicing Yoga (again!) I want to see if keeping my body a bit more flexible will assist in alleviating some of the discomfort I have been experiencing in my back and neck. While doing the practice, I have discovered that rather than focusing on my spine, arms or legs, I seem to be concentrating on what my feet are doing. The teacher I use encourages me to “stand on the four corners of” my feet. Interestingly, when I do that, the rest of my body seems to fall into place.

While I certainly understand what it means to “be grounded” and have discovered many ways to get myself to that feeling, the Yoga experience is slightly different. Rather than “grounding” myself to keep my head connected to my body, Yoga enables me to “ground” myself in order to keep all the parts of my body connected, healthy and working together. The experience is extraordinary and strengthening.

Prayer, “grounding,” Yoga or some other focused meditation on our feet, is a powerful way to connect with our life’s path. It appears that in “strengthening our steps,” The Holy One of Being points us in the right direction for whatever journey we may be taking today.

Happy Reading!

 

Kathy B.

 dancingWingsDancing in the Wings by Debbie Allen. Illustrated by Kadir Nelson. ©2000. Philomel. Ages 6-10.  What do you do when your too-big feet, your too-long legs and your big mouth get in the way of your dream of becoming a star ballerina? Sassy does everything she can to realize her dream when the Dance Festival Director comes to town to audition students, but may have gone too far with the orange leotard. Based on the author’s true life experiences.

 

FootBook

The Foot Book Written and Illustrated By Dr. Seuss. ©1968. Random House. Ages 3-7.  Who knows more about feet and what they can do than Dr. Seuss? “Oh, how many feet you meet!”

 

 HarrisFeetHarris Finds His Feet Written and Illustrated By Catherine Rayner. ©2008. Good Books. Ages 5-8.  Harris wants to know why he has such big feet. So he asks his Grandpa who leads him on a wondrous journey of discovery and ultimately independence.

 

The Queen’s Feet by Sarah Ellis. Illustrated by Dušan Petričić. ©2006. Red Deer Press. Ages 5-8. Queen Daisy is a wonderful ruler, except that her feet have a mind of their own. Whether tap dancing or walking in the fish pond, wearing boots that thumped through the palace halls or sandals to show off her toenail polish, her feet did and wore whatever they QueensFeetwanted. All that was fine, until her feet kicked a visiting king in the shins – well, he was a bully – but that was rude! Then the wizards and wise people of the country had to get involved.

 

©2014 Kathleen M. Bloomfield and forwordsbooks.com. All rights reserved.

1 Comment »

« Older Entries |