Archive for the ‘Bible’ Category

Turn it and turn it again: The Study of Torah encompasses them all/Talmud Torah k’neged kulam

It is hard to imagine that this month we will be ending our survey of the Eilu D’varim prayer and all the values it contains, but here we are.  As I sat in Shabbat morning services this weekend, reciting this amazing prayer, I could not help but think about how far we have journeyed together these past nine months.  Beginning with honoring our parents and right on through making peace among people, we have explored the wealth of values not only in this prayer, but in an incredible number of children’s books that support those values. The most important lesson I hope to have taught each of you is that as the Values Educators for the children in your care – and YOU the parents, grandparents  and teachers of these children are their Values Educators – there is a wealth of resources at your disposal at your local library, in your local bookstore and online.  You just have to know how to discover it.

We are ending on the most important value of all, the study of Torah encompasses them all/talmud Torah k’neged kulam. As the first century Rabbi Ben Bag Bag says about Torah in Pirke Avot /Sayings of the Fathers (5:26) “Turn it and turn it again for everything is in it.” All the values we have read about thus far and so many more can be found in the pages and stories that come from the pages of Torah. Here are a few books to get you and your family started on this important and lifelong mitzvah (commandment):


Naamah and the Ark at Night by Susan Campbell Bartoletti. Illustrated by Holly Meade. Candlewick Press, ©2011. Ages 3-8. Noah’s wife, Naamah, sings the restless animals and her family to sleep during a stormy night aboard the ark. Beautiful collage and watercolor illustrations support the lyrical, rhyming lullaby.

The Seventh Day by Deborah Bodin Cohen. Illustrated by Melanie Hall. Kar-Ben Publishing, ©2005. Ages 3-8. Just like an artist, God worked hard molding, painting and singing the world into being until it was exactly as it should be. Then God rested and created Shabbat.

Abraham’s Search for God by Jacqueline Jules. Illustrated by Natascia Ugliano. Kar-Ben Publishing, © 2007. Ages 4-8. Abraham is considered the father of three great religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. As a child he questioned the idol worship of his family and searched for the powerful One God.

The Coat of Many Colors by Jenny Koralek. Illustrated by Pauline Baynes. Eerdmans Books for Young Readers., © 2004. Ages 5-10. The biblical story of Joseph and his coat of many colors is retold in language for the young.

Green Bible Stories for Children by Tami Lehman Wilzig. Illustrated by Durga Yael Bernard. Kar-Ben Publishing, © 2011. Ages 8-11. The  retelling of well known bible stories with “reuse-renew-recycle” lessons.

Masada: The Last Fortress by Gloria D. Miklowitz. Eerdmans Books for Young Readers., © 1998. Ages 11-14. Simon ben-Eleazar, the 17-year-old son of the leader of the Zealots on top of Masada, records the story of the battle between the Roman Army and a fierce group of Jews determined to live as free people in their homeland.

Pharaoh’s Daughter: A Novel of Ancient Egypt by Julius Lester. Harcourt, Inc., © 2000. Ages 12-18. A beautifully told Midrash (story based in Torah) about the life of Moses.


As you read these beautiful stories, you may want to compare them with the JPS Illustrated Children’s Bible, an excellent, award winning resource for your family, as is of course a copy of the Tanakh for older readers.  Whichever you prefer, you will find some excellent discussion questions and activities for Torah Study 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 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.

Let’s Continue Reading for the Joy of It – Simcha/Joy

As Purim approaches (beginning the evening of March 19), and the costumes, hamantaschen and Purim Shpiel (play) rehearsals all come together, our anticipation and happiness seem to reach overwhelming proportions. That is why I chose Simcha/Joy as this month’s value.

I often feel that way when I am reading a really good book. With each chapter, I just can’t wait to read the next, to learn more about the characters, to see what they are going to do in the following pages. Sometimes I am up until the “wee” hours of the morning, because I just can’t put the book down. When I am finished, I feel so happy… until of course the next morning when I have to wake up and go to work. Nevertheless, I have a great story to talk about and share with my readers or students. Nothing could be better…until the next wonderful book falls into my hands.

My choices for this month’s books for older readers are the ones I could not put down. They made me laugh, made me cry or knocked me off my feet, but in the end, they kept me awake until the final page turn filled me with joy. I hope they do the same for you:

All-of-a-Kind Family. By Sydney Taylor. Illustrated by Helen John. © 1951, Yearling. The classic story of a family with five girls living in the Lower East side of New York in the early 1900′s. Their celebration of life in the face of sometimes bleak living conditions is a wonderful look at “seeing the glass half full.” Based on the author’s life.  Ages 9-12 years.


The Importance of Wings. By Robin Friedman. © 2009, Charlesbridge.Publishing. Winner of the Sydney Taylor Award for Older Readers. With appealing and affecting writing, this novel grabs the reader immediately and takes you on a journey of self-discovery, confidence building and empowerment as Roxanne, with a small amount of help from her next-door neighbor Liat,  discovers she has what it takes to be her own person. Ages 10-14 years.

A Pickpocket’s Tale. By Karen Schwabach. © 2006,  Random House Books fro Young Readers.. In 1730, Molly Abraham is living in the streets of London following here mother’s death from smallpox. She supports herself by pickpocketing. Having been caught and tried in a court of law, she finds herself on a ship headed to America as an indentured servant. The ship arrives in New York, where she is ransomed by a Jewish family. In their household she learns how to be a good servant and a practicing Jew. Ages 11-15 years.

Confessions of a Closet Catholic. By Sarah Darer Littman. © 2005, Dutton. Winner of the Sydney Taylor Book Award for Older Readers. Justine Silver has decided that for Lent she will give up being Jewish. This is just the beginning of her struggles with being the middle child, boys, chocolate and of course, religion. Ages 11-15 years.

Strange Relations. By Sonia Levitin. © 2007,   Knopf Books for Young Readers. Winner of the Sydney Taylor Book Award for Teen Readers.  Marne simply wants a nice summer on the beaches in Hawaii visiting her aunt and cousins while her parents are travelling on business. What she gets instead is the discovery that her aunt and uncle run the Chabad House on the mainland of Hawaii, and she is expected to pitch in. Her experiences provide her with some new insights into her religious identity. Ages 14-18 years.

A Brief Chapter in My Impossible Life. By Dana Reinhardt. © 2006, Wendy Lamb Books. Simone knows she is adopted and wants nothing to do with her birth mother. At her adoptive parents’ insistance, however, she agrees to meet her birth mother one time. What she discovers is both enlightening and tragic. Ages 14 – 18 years.

I certainly hope you do not stay up until the “wee” hours reading these titles, after all, a good night’s rest is most Important. If you do, however, email me at kathyb@forwordsbooks.com. I will be happy to send a note to your teacher/boss explaining why the book kept you up so late that you overslept and were late for school/work. Beware: You will first have to answer a question or two to prove to me that you read the book.

Have a delicious Purim!

Happy Reading,

Kathy B.

©2011 Kathleen M. Bloomfield and forwordsbooks.com all rights reserved.
Books used in this review were from my own 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.

Book Review | Tower of Babel
by A.S. Gadot

Score: 3

Illustrated by Cecilia Rebora © 2010, Kar-Ben Publishing. A cute and clever retelling of the Biblical story of the Tower of Babel. The people of Shinar all speak the same language and get along fine, until they get bored doing the same thing day in and day out. When a child suggests they build a [...]

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Book Review | Noah’s Bark
by Stephen Krensky

Score: 2

Illustrated by Rogé © 2010, Carolrhoda Books. During the time Noah was building the ark, the animals could use any sound they liked whenever they liked. “Snakes quacked…Beavers crowed…elephants hissed.” At other times, the elephants would quack, the beavers hiss and the snakes would baah. This was a bit distracting to Noah as he tried [...]

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Chashuv/Important: “Take a Census” (Numbers 1:2 & 4:22)

This week and next Jewish people around the world will be reading and discussing Torah portions, Bamidbar and Naso, about the census of the Israelites in the desert. Interesting, as we here in America are going through our own decennial census and have just sent out enumerators to follow up with households whose mail-in census forms were not received by the US Census Bureau Office.

“Count Me In!” “You Can Count on Me!” “Stand Up and Be Counted!” are just a few of the many idioms in the English language using the word “count.” In these cases, “count” implies a certain responsibility or accountability, if you will, on the part of the counted individual. By stepping forward and being counted, as in a census for example, you are attesting to the fact that you exist, are present and available for the task at hand. When you take on responsibilities or make yourself responsible, you become important or Chashuv in Hebrew.

I see the census as a way for the government to know I exist. Not in a “Big Brother is Watching” way, but in an “I need to know you are there, if I am going to be able to take care of you” way. If I fulfill my responsibilities – pay my taxes, vote, follow the law, etc. – then I expect my government to do the same in return. How will that happen, if the government has no idea that I exist? How will it know that I need a road to my home, a school for my children, or a hospital for my community?

The United States census is mandated by the U. S. Constitution, the information is absolutely, positively and utterly confidential (I believe the government is close to paranoid about this), and the information gleaned from the census impacts such significant decisions as my state’s representatives in congress, electoral votes and government funding. I am an important/Chashuv participant in making sure the information collected is accurate.

When I was in school, I learned that participating in the census was a “civic responsibility.” I wonder if they teach that any longer. In case they do not, and to be of some assistance to the enumerators out there who are working hard to make sure that everyone gets counted, I have put together a list of books that can help your child – and perhaps yourself – understand the importance of counting and the value of being counted in America.

Happy Reading,

Kathy B.

The History of Counting. By Denise Schmandt-Besserat. Illustrated by Michael Hays. © 1999, Morrow Junior Books, a division of William Morrow and Company. Ages 9-12.  How did the world arrive at the method of using numbers the way we do today? It was not always this way. This intriguing history follows humankind from pre-historic through agricultural into commercial times as the need for an abstract counting system became greater and more important. Wondrous illustrations of counting systems from the simple to the complex aid the understanding of this complicated topic. The text, while easy to understand, delves deeply into the back roads of history to unearth how we arrived at a universal system of numbers that most of us assume has been in use forever.

How Many Snails? A Counting Book. By Paul Giganti. Illustrated by: Donald Crews. ©1988, Greenwillow Books. Ages 3-6. More than a simple counting book, the reader must see the details in this charming and colorful concept book. Count the number of flowers. How many of them are yellow? How many dogs are spotted? “How many cupcakes had white icing and candy sprinkles?”   A wonderful introduction into taking a closer look at the world around us.


A Million Dots. By Andrew Clements.  Illustrated by Mike Reed. © 2006, Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers. Ages 4-10. What does a million look like? Using tiny dots and captivating information, Clements and Reed help children and adults see and understand the concept of 1 million. As you read this well illustrated and engagingly written book, they challenge you to find a specific dot and learn a fascinating fact about the number it represents. Eyes may cross, but giggles will abound as everyone learns about great big numbers.

If America Were a Village: A Book About the People of the United States. By David Smith. Illustrated by: Shelagh Armstrong. © 2009, Kids Can Press. Ages 6-9. Do you wonder how the information from the census is used? Some of it assists in the writing of wonderful books like this, that help our children understand more about the country in which they live and the people who live there. This extraordinary picture book uses the statistics from the US Census Bureau and many other resources to describe the United States of America, with a population of over 306 Million, as a village of 100 people. The results – both the artwork and the numbers – are captivating presenting you with a picture of America unlike any you have ever seen before.

I Am America. By: Charles R. Smith, Jr.  © 2003, Scholastic, Inc. Ages 3-6. Simple lyrical text and warm blocks of bright, bold colors, accompany gorgeous full-color photographs of charming children from across the country in this delightful introduction to America today. The diversity of cultures, religions, styles, sounds and so much more are all represented here. I see hope for our country in the eyes of the children on these pages.

Unite or Die! The Story of the Thirteen Colonies. By Jacqueline Jules. Illustrated by Jef Czekaj. © 2009, Charlesbridge Publishing, Inc. Ages 6-10. Perhaps you have forgotten why we need a Federal Government in the first place. Possibly a refresher course in American History 101: Post- Revolutionary War is in order. Here is a perfect solution. Did you know that “in the beginning” all the states had their own currency? There was no trade agreement with foreign governments because the states could not speak with one voice? Vermont used to be land that was claimed by both New York and New Hampshire? A school play is the setting for these fun facts and many more as the students reenact the 1787 Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia. Captivatingly humorous, cartoon-style illustrations will engage children of all ages in learning about a seminal moment in American history. The first census in US history followed in 1790.

©2010 Kathleen M. Bloomfield and forwordsbooks.com all rights reserved.
Books used in this review came from my 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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