Archive for January, 2012

The Voice of Bride & Groom…the song of children at play: Hachnasat Kallah/Celebrating the Wedding Couple

Our journey of discovery HaEilu D’varim – of the obligations without measure brings us to an interesting value: Hachnasat Kallah/Celebrating the Wedding Couple. We are asked to insure that a newly married couple starts their life together with a joyous celebration and everything they need to set up their house.

The marriage of two people committed to sharing a lifetime together is cause for a celebration. Children invited to this magical event bring energy, laughter and a sense of wonder as they ask their elders questions about the meaning of every rite and ritual, the relationship of this or that person to them and for information about weddings past, present and future.  Offering children the opportunity to share blessings for the couple in the form of small drawings or written words is one way to make their presence even more meaningful.

The following books are wonderful examples of the joy children can bring to the mitzvah (good deed) of Hachnasat Kallah/Celebrating the Wedding Couple:

Grandma’s Wedding Album by Harriet Ziefert. Paintings by Karla Gudeon. © 2011. Blue Apple Books. Ages 4-7. Designed to look like a picture album, Grandma shows her grandchildren, Emily and Michael, “photos” from her wedding to Poppy describing how they met, got engaged and were married. The photo/paintings are joyful, beautiful and colorful. The back of the book lists wedding traditions from all over the world.

Nadia’s Hands by Karen English. Illustrated by Jonathan Weiner. © 1999. Boyds Mill Press. Ages 5-8. Nadia, a Pakistani-American girl, has been chosen to be the flower girl for her Aunt Laila’s wedding. This means her hands will be painted with lovely designs and flowers using dye called henna. Nadia worries that the dye will be on her hands when she returns to school following the wedding. How will she explain the red shapes and lines on her hands to her classmates?

Donovan’s Big Day by Lesléa Newman. Illustrated by Mike Dutton. © 2011. Tricycle Press. Ages 4-7.  Donovan has a BIG job to do, but he has a lot of things to remember before he can get his BIG job done. After all, he is the ring bearer at the wedding of his two moms, so he better get up on time, eat his breakfast, stay clean, greet everyone…

Uncle Peter’s Amazing Chinese Wedding by Lenore Look. Illustrated by Yumi Heo. © 2006 Atheneum Books for  Young Readers. Ages 4-8 years. How will Jenny be her Uncle Peter’s favorite girl if he is getting married? Jenny decides to do everything she can to stop the wedding so her Uncle will continue to love her most of all. The hilarious results may inspire playful kids, but they will learn a lot about Chinese wedding traditions in the process.

Wedding Flowers by Cynthia Rylant. Illustrated by Wendy Andeson Halperin. © 2002. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers. Ages 6-9 years. This is Book 6 of the Cobble Street Cousins Series, although one does not have to have read the previous books to read this one.  The cousins return to Cobble Street to help Aunt Lucy with her wedding to Michael.

Brenda Berman, Wedding Expert by Jane Breskin Zalben.   Illustrated by Victoria Chess. ©2009. Clarion Books. Ages 6-9 years. Brenda Berman knows that a flower girl in a gold lamé dress with sparkly shoes makes any wedding special. Of course, when her Uncle Harry announces his engagement, Brenda is thrilled that her flower girl dreams have arrived. Unfortunately, the bride and her niece have other plans. Can Brenda save the day and plan the perfect wedding?

The Wedding Planner’s Daughter by Coleen Murtagh Paratore. © 2005. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.   Ages 9-12 years. Twelve-year-old Willafred “Willa” Havisham  has travelled everywhere with her mother , Stella, a first-class wedding planner. All she wants is to settle down somewhere and find a father. When it appears her wish may at last come true, disaster strikes and her mother packs their bags again.

Sister of the Bride by Beverly Cleary. © 1996. HarperCollins. Ages 11-14 years. Barbara’s sister, Rosemary has announced she is getting married. At first Barbara is very excited, but once the wedding plans begin, the world seems to center around Rosemary. Barbara and her younger brother, Gordy, are shoved to the side-lines. At least that is how they feel. Barbara begins to wonder, “What is so great about getting married anyway?”

Providing children with opportunities to observe how brides and grooms are nurtured by the community allows them to understand the delights and responsibilities of marriage from many points of view. This is a lesson we are never too young to acquire. Share this message a little more with the discussion questions and activities provided in the Speak Volumes Guide for this month.

Happy Reading,

Kathy B.

©2012 Kathleen M. Bloomfield and forwordsbooks.com all rights reserved.
Books used in this review came from publishers as review copies, my personal collection and 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.

Visit the Sick—For Your Own Good: Visiting the Sick/Bikkur Cholim

As we continue on our path along Eilu D’varim – the obligations without measure, we find these responsibilities becoming increasingly more challenging. This month we explore Visiting the Sick/Bikkur Cholim which can be a difficult mitzvah to perform. Certainly bringing a pot of soup, a few magazines or a potted plant to someone who has a cold or who may have a broken arm is simple enough. However, what happens when someone is seriously ill and needs much more time and attention? What happens when an illness strikes that requires weeks of dinners, assistance with doctor visits and perhaps some in-home care as well?

Such was the case a few years ago when I was diagnosed with a meningioma (a tumor located on the brain) and required immediate surgery.  Needless to say, neither I nor my family was expecting such a sudden medical crisis. Fortunately, I had a large community of family, friends and colleagues- even people I did not know-willing to help us out with everything from cooking meals to sitting with me in the hospital to sending cards, books and letters of encouragement. My Temple’s Caring Community brought a hand-knit “Healing Shawl” which I still put on occasionally when I feel the need.  As my family and I focused on getting me well, our everyday worries, like getting dinner ready, were taken care of by people we knew and trusted. While I did my best to say thanks to everyone who helped us during those stressful days, there will never be enough words. My family and I try our best to “pay it forward” by helping out whenever we hear of someone in need. The soup pot starts boiling, the cookies begin baking, and we sign up for a dinner.

The following books can be helpful as you and your family explores the mitzvah of Visiting the Sick/Bikkur Cholim:

A Sick Day for Amos McGee. Written by Philip C. Stead. Illustrated by Erin E. Stead, ©2010. Roaring Brook Press.  Ages 3-6.  In this exquisite, Caldecott Award winning book, Amos McGee, a fabulous zookeeper, arrives on time every day to take care of all the wonderful animals. He makes sure to drop by his particular friends to make sure they receive some special attention. However, one morning he wakes up sick and does not come to work. That day, Amos receives some special attention of his own.

The Sniffles for Bear. Written By Bonny Becker. Illustrated by Kady MacDonald Denton, © 2011. Candlewick Press. Ages 3-6. Certain that “no one had ever been as sick as he,” Bear awaits his end. Even a visit from his overly cheerful friend mouse cannot sem to turn the tide, until while writing his will…

Say Hello, Lily. Written by Deborah Lakritz.  Illustrated By Martha Avilés, ©2010. Kar-Ben Publishing. Ages 5-8.  Lily wants to go with her mom to visit her elderly neighbor, Mrs. Rosenbaum, who has just moved into Shalom House, the local nursing home. However, when Lily walks into the lobby, she is overwhelmed by the number of new faces who all want to get to know her at the same time. She suddenly turns very shy. It does not take too many visits before she learns everyone’s names and stories. Soon she has a surprise for all her new friends.

The Princess of Borscht. Written by Leda Schubert. Illustrated by Bonnie Christensen, ©2011. Roraring Brook Press. Ages5-8. Ruthie’s grandma is in the hospital. When Ruthie goes to visit, Grandma tells her that the hospital food is terrible. Ruthie hears that if her grandmother does not get a bowl of borscht by 5:00 PM she is going to die of starvation.  Ruthie has never made borscht, so she seeks out the neighbors’ help. The result is hilarious, think Top Chef meets Nickelodeon.

Mr. Putter & Tabby Catch the Cold. Written By Cynthia Rylant. Illustrated by Arthur Howard, © 2002. Harcourt, Inc. Ages 7-10. Mr. Putter catches a cold when he goes outside on a wintery day without his hat.  With the help of his friendly neighbor, Mrs. Teaberry and her wonderful dog Zeke, it turns out to be the best cold Mr. Potter ever caught.


The Lemonade Club. Written and illustrated by Patricia Polacco, © 2007. Philomel Books. Ages 8-11.  “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade” is the motto of Miss Wichelman’s fifth-grade class. Make sure you have your tissue boxes on hand as you read this true-life story about friends helping friends through some difficult times.

Drums, Girls & Dangerous Pie. Written by Jordan Sonnenblick, © 2004. Scholastic Press, Inc. Ages 10-15. Steven is a fairly normal 13-year-old boy in middle school. He is a gifted jazz drummer, dreams about the prettiest girl in school and gets decent grades. Until his 5-year-old brother is diagnosed with leukemia and his entire life is turned upside down.

Fever, 1793. Written by Laurie Halse Anderson, © 2000. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers. Ages 12-16. When a yellow fever epidemic hits Philadelphia, Matilda Cook finds herself alone in having to face a city in terror. Based on real events.

God is in the Pancakes. Written by Robin Epstein, © 2010. Dial Books. Ages 14 -18. Fifteen-year-old Grace Manning loves being a candy striper at her local nursing home. She especially loves assisting her patient Mr. Sands, who has Lou Gehrig’s disease. They joke around as he teaches her to play and cheat at poker. Then one day he asks her to “help him die.”

As you read these books, discuss them with your children using the “Speak Volumes” guide. The questions and activities will provide you with many opportunities to become comfortable with Visiting the Sick/Bikkur Cholim in a variety of settings. Whether you find you are most at ease in the home of an ailing friend, in a nursing home visiting an elderly relative or in the trauma ward of your local hospital, Visiting the Sick/Bikkur Cholim is an important mitzvah/good deed that plays a significant role in repairing the world. Find where you are most comfortable and make a visit. It will do you and those you visit a world of good.

Happy Reading,

Kathy B.

©2012 Kathleen M. Bloomfield and forwordsbooks.com all rights reserved.
Books used in this review came from publishers as review copies, my personal collection and 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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