Archive for February, 2011

Who Has Such Things in This World

Snow, everywhere I look I see snow, piles and mountains of snow. When it has not been snowing, it is cold – Freezing cold, in the 5s, 10s, 20s and 30s cold. One morning I got in my car and the thermometer read “0″ – Z.E.R.O.  Now I know there are parts of the country, and the world for that matter, where these temperatures would feel balmy, but for this transplanted California girl, enough is enough. I have really had it with snow and cold and winter.

Yet there are moments when I look out my office window to my back yard and see a vast sea of whiteness that simply takes my breath away. How beautiful is that? I think to myself.  Or when I watch snow falling, little puffs of white floating down from on high, that I still think of as a miracle.  Or as I am out walking during a snow fall, and the temperature is just right so that individual snowflakes drop on my parka, and I see each one is unique and beautiful. Amazing, I think.

I could not find a Hebrew blessing for snow. What I use is the blessing for nature’s beauty, because no matter what, there is real beauty in watching the snow fall.

Baruch attah Adonai eloheinu melech ha-olam,
shekachah lo b’olamo.

Blessed are You, Creator of the Universe,
Who has things such as this in Your world.

There are a few wonderful books about snow that I have found to be interesting and enlightening in my own search for knowledge about this wondrous experience. You might want to share them  with your children:

Snow written and illustrated by Uri Schulevitz. ©1998, Farrar Straus and Giroux Books for Young Readers.  First a single snowflake falls from the sky, then two, then three.  All the while, a young boy and his dog know it is snowing. The adults, the radio and the television all insist, “No snow.” When all the rooftops are white, the boy and his dog run out to play, while everyone else takes shelter. The illustrations are sublime. Ages 4-8.


Snowflake Bentley by Jacqueline Briggs Martin. Illustrated by Mary Azarian. ©1998, Houghton Mifflin Company. Winner of the Caldecott Medal. The first time a real snowflake – and another and another – landed on my coat and I saw that indeed each one was unique and exquisite, I said the Shehecheyanu Blessing: Thank you God for letting me live to see this moment.  The next thing I did was find a copy of this book.  Wilson Bentley lived his life studying snowflakes.  This beautifully illustrated and marvelously written book explains why. However, if you stand outside during a snowfall and look at the snowflakes that land on your coat, you will understand.  Ages 5-10.

The Story of Snow: The Science of Winter’s Wonder by Mark Cassino with John Nelson, Ph.D. ©2009, Chronicle Books.  This exceptional, award-winning science book explains exactly how snow crystals are made, the different shapes they can grow in (stars, plates and columns) and whether they are truly unique.  There are also tips for catching and studying snow crystals on your own.  The illustrations are mostly photographs of actual snow crystals.  Ages 5-10.

Under the Snow by Melissa Stewart. Illustrated by Constance R. Bergum.  ©2009, Peachtree Publishers.  When I have absolutely reached my limit with winter, wondering what I am doing in the frozen Northeast, I say to my husband, “Animals hibernate in this weather!”  This is exactly the book I need to prove my position. With simple text and gorgeous illustrations, we can see that animals do know how to handle the cold better than we do – they just sleep through it! I particularly love the woodchuck because it “sleeps soundly all winter” getting “all the energy it needs from its thick layer of fat.”  Perhaps I just need to sleep more? Ages 4-9.

Perhaps it is wishful thinking on my part to believe that writing about snow will put an end to the fierce winter we have had so far this year.  A California Girl can hope, can’t she? Nevertheless, if another snowstorm, or two, or…comes our way before winter’s end, I will be prepared with books and blessings.

Happy Readings,

Kathy B.


©2011 Kathleen M. Bloomfield and forwordsbooks.com all rights reserved.
Books used in this review were provided by my local public library.
I am an Amazon Affiliate. If you click on a book title referred to on my web site 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.

Reach Out and Help Someone: Ha’achalat Re’evim/Feeding the Hungry, Continued

“If we do not help a [person] in trouble, it is as if we caused the trouble.”

~ Rabbi Nachman of Breslov (1772-1810), Torah scholar, spiritual leader

As we quickly approach the Jewish Leap Month of Adar I (also called Adar Rishon/ the first Adar or Adar Alef), this coming Shabbat (Friday evening, February 4), I want to round out my  Ha’achalat Re’evim/Feeding the Hungry book list with titles for older readers.  This age group, 11-18 year olds, is psychologically and sociologically ready to assist in finding solutions to some of the challenges these books offer.   I encourage you to read these books with your children and discuss the issues that are brought up. Here is a list of books that may help all of you become more aware of the plight of the hungry and homeless and how you can help:

Gracie’s Girl by Ellen Wittlinger. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, © 2000. Bess wants to be popular at school. It seems her mother and now her best friend are trying to ruin that dream with their involvment in the local homeless shelter/soup kitchen. Then she meets Gracie, an elderly, homeless lady, who needs her help. Can she put popularity aside to do what is right? Ages 11-14.

Money Hungry by Sharon G. Flake. Hyperion Books for Children, © 2001. If you have ever been  homeless, you will understand why money is all Rasperry Hill ever thinks about. Money separates Raspberry from the cold, hard streets. Money will move her from the projects to a nice, spacious apartment. Money is all that motivates Raspberry. Ages 11-14.

Birdland by Tracy Mack. Scholastic Press, © 2003. Jed is trying to discover anything and everything that moved his older brother Zeke who died from an insulin overdose under mysterious circumstances. When Jed meets a homeless girl who also knew Zeke, he believes he may have found someone with the answers he is searching for. Ages 13-16.

Nickeled and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America by Barbara Ehrenreich. Henry Holt and Company, LLC, © 2001. A surprisingly revealing book about living on a minimum wage income in America. Ages 14-Adult.

A Kids’ Guide to Hunger and Homelessness: How to Take Action! by Cathryn Berger Kaye, Free Spirit Press © 2007. An excellent book packed with great ideas for social action projects and ways to get involved in this serious issue. Ages 9-14.

You can also visit  http://mazon.org/ for a look at what the Jewish community is doing to help fight hunger.

I am aware that in many schools, public and private, students in upper grades are being asked to take on “Social Awareness Projects” or “Social Action Projects” in order to make them better citizens of the world. This list, and future Jewish values lists on forwordsbooks.com, may assist your child in developing such a project for your community.  It is my belief that with reading comes understanding which brings about the ideas and the assistance necessary to see an end to the difficulties suffered by so many all over the world. Ken Yehi Ratzon/May it be God’s will.

Happy Reading,

Kathy B.

©2011 Kathleen M. Bloomfield and forwordsbooks.com all rights reserved.
Books used in this review were provided by my local public library.
I am an Amazon Affiliate. If you click on a book title referred to on my web site 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.

Reach out and help someone: Ha’achalat Re’evim/Feeding the Hungry

“You shall not harden your heart, nor shut your hand from your needy brother,

but…lend him sufficient for his need.”

~ Deuteronomy 15:7

The Jewish calendar is complex and once in a while we need a Leap Month in order to insure that we are not celebrating Passover in July or Rosh Hashanah in December.  I will let others more articulate than I explain why this is so, but it is our good fortune to be welcoming the Jewish leap month of Adar I (Also called Adar Rishon/ the first Adar or Adar Alef), this coming Shabbat (Friday evening, February 4.)

Since Adar is the month in which we celebrate Purim, one of Judaism’s most fun and festive holidays, it is as if we have been granted an extra 30 days to plan, prepare and look forward to Purim and perhaps get in a few extra mitzvot (commandments, good deeds) for good measure. In truth, amid all the fun and frolic, Purim has four big responsibilities: The mitzvah of listening to Esther’s story, the mitzvah of celebrating Purim with a meal, the mitzvah of sending gifts to one another, and the mitzvah of sending gifts to the poor. That brings me to this month’s Jewish value: Ha’achalat Re’evim/Feeding the Hungry.

In these difficult economic times, when many of our neighbors face the daily challenges brought on by unemployment or underemployment, whatever we can do to support their struggles is a blessing. Here is a list of books that may help you become more aware of their plight and how you can help:

Bone Button Borscht by Aubrey Davis. Illustrated by Dusan Petricic. Kids Can Press, Ltd., © 1995. A beggar arrives in a small town on a cold winter’s night hoping for a hot meal. Instead he finds empty houses and no one to share any food with him. Until he begins cooking up a pot of Bone Button Borscht. Ages 4-8.

The Lady in the Box by Ann McGovern. Illustrated by Marni Backer. Turtle Books, © 1997. During the winter holiday season, a brother and sister secretly try to help a woman they see sleeping in a box outside of their local deli. Of course, when their mother finds out what they are doing, she gets involved and everything changes. Ages 4-8.

Beatrice’s Goat by Page McBrier. Illustrated by Lori Lohstoeter. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, © 2001. When an African family receives a goat from Heifer International, a young girl is able to attend school. Ages 4-8.

Uncle Willie and the Soup Kitchen Written and illustrated by DyAnne DiSalvo-Ryan. Morrow Junior Books, © 1991. A young boy spends the day with his uncle at the local soup kitchen where he works feeding the community’s poorest residents. Ages 6-9.

Dew Drop Deadby James Howe. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, © 1990. Three children investigate a murder involving the homeless shelter in town. Ages 9-13.

Darnell Rock Reporting by Walter Dean Myers. Delacorte Press, © 1994. A thirteen-year-old boy who is uninterested in school suddenly finds himself the center of attention when he joins the school newspaper and becomes an advocate for the homeless using a piece of school property for a vegetable garden. Ages 9-14.

A Kids’ Guide to Hunger and Homelessness: How to Take Action! by Cathryn Berger Kaye, Free Spirit Press © 2007. An excellent book packed with great ideas for social action projects and ways to get involved in this serious issue. Ages 9-14.

This list, and the upcoming list for older readers, should assist you and your family in understanding the plight of the poor and hungry in our communities, You can also visit http://mazon.org/ for a look at what the Jewish community is doing to help fight hunger. It is my hope that with understanding comes the ideas and the assistance necessary to see an end to the difficulties suffered by so many all over the world. Ken Yehi Ratzon/ May it be God’s will.

Happy Reading,

Kathy B.

©2011 Kathleen M. Bloomfield and forwordsbooks.com all rights reserved.
Books used in this review were provided by my local public library.
I am an Amazon Affiliate. If you click on a book title referred to on my web site 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.

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