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Apples Dipped in Honey for Rosh Hashanah

In one week, we will be celebrating the beginning of a new Jewish year. For many years,  my family has welcomed in the New Year using the “Home Service for Rosh Hashanah”  found in All About Rosh Hashanah by Judyth Groner and Madeline Wikler, Illustrated by Bonnie Gordon Lucas. ©1997 Kar-Ben Publishing. We light the candles, say the blessing over the wine, bless the round challah and then dip a slice of apple into honey and say the blessing for a sweet New Year. After all that, we begin our holiday meal.

As I think about preparing for this tradition, however, I am reminded that bees are in trouble all over the world.  What if there was no honey for us to dip our apples in? Several new books have been published recently to warn of the bees’ plight and seek everyone’s help in looking out for them.

What’s the Buzz? Honey for a Sweet New Year by Allison Ofanansky. Photographs by Eliyahu Alpern. ©2011. Kar-Ben Publishing. Ages 4-9.  In this companion book to Harvest of Light and Sukkot Treasure Hunt, the author and photographer take us on a visit to the Dvorat Havator Bee Farm and Education Center in Israel to learn how bees collect pollen to make honey and to see how it is processed into the food we eat.

The Buzz on Bees: Why Are They Disappearing? by Shelley Rotner & Anne Woodhull. Photographs by Shelley Rotner.  ©2010. Ages 6-10. Holiday House, Inc. In 2006, Dave Hackenburg, a professional beekeeper noticed that all of his hundreds of hives were empty. The bees were not dead, they had disappeared.  This fascinating book explains why the vanishing of bees would be a terrible thing for the world. Bees do more than simply produce honey, they pollinate “one out of every three mouthfuls of food we eat.” That makes bees a pretty important insect.

The Hive Detectives: Chronicle of a Honey Bee Catastrophe by Loree Griffin Burns. Photographs by Ellen Harasimowicz. ©2010. Houghton Mifflin Books for Children.  Ages 8-12. This captivating book, part of the Scientists in the Field Series, delves deeply into the disappearance of bees around the world and the scientific search into the cause of Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). You will be reintroduced to Dave Hackenburg, the professional beekeeper who first discovered this frightening problem and to the beekeepers, farmers, scientists and the many others who are pursuing the various leads to the potential causes of the problem.

Honey: A Gift from Nature by Yumiko Fujiwara. Illustrated by Hideko Ise. ©2006. Kane/Miller Book Publishers, Inc.  Ages 3-6. This book, for the very young, looks at bees and how they make the honey we love so much. The language is simple and direct. The illustrations are beautiful and take on the colors of each season being discussed – the greens of spring, the warm yellows of summer, the autumn golds and reds, the greys of winter.  Because it was published before its discovery, this book does not go into the bee problem.  Nevertheless, for the very young, this is a perfect introduction to the wonders of how honey is made.

And with all of this honey, we should have some apples to dip it in, right?

One Red Apple by Harriet Ziefert. Illustrated by Karla Gudeon.  ©2009. Blue Apple Books.  Ages 3-8.  Using simple language, this charming book takes us on a journey from picking apples to eating, to leaving some apples for the birds. Seeds fall, a tree grows – with a pull out page – and the cycle begins again. Karla Gudeon’s paintings are bright, bold, colorful and attractive.  Pair this book with What’s the Buzz? Honey for a Sweet New Year or Honey: a Gift from Nature and you will have a lovely read-aloud time with your family for the New Year.

Wishing you and yours a sweet, healthy and book-filled New Year.  L’Shanah Tovah Tikatevu – May you be inscribed in the Book of Life for a good year.

Happy Reading,

Kathy B.

©2011 Kathleen M. Bloomfield and all rights reserved.
Books used in this review came from my own collection, my local public library or the publisher as a review copy.
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.

To Till it and Tend it – Earth Day 2011

All that we see –

The heaven, the Earth, and all that fills it –

All these things

Are the external garments of God.

Rebbe Shneur Zalman (1745-1812), The “Alter Rebbe”

Happy Earth Day 2011! Although I am still in Passover mode, today is the perfect opportunity to share a few of the latest “Green Books” that have come across my desk in the past few weeks:

Can We Save the Tiger? By Martin Jenkins. Illustrated by Vicky White. ©2011. Candlewick Press. In this exceptional book, Mr. Jenkins shares the stories of animals teetering on the edge of extinction as a result of human behavior.  He gives us the choice of saving these beautiful creatures or having them disappear forever. Ms. White’s stunning pencil and oil paint illustrations support his efforts to see these animals as masterpieces of God’s creation. Can the loss of these species be any less devastating than losing works by Picasso or Michelangelo? (Ages 6-11)

Dear Tree by Doba Rivka Weber. Illustrated by Phyllis Saroff. ©2010. Hachai Publishing. In this endearing story, a young boy writes a New Year’s (Tu B’Shevat)  letter to his tree wishing it all good things for the year to come. The lovely illustrations show, in detail, exactly what the boy hopes the tree receives – sunlight, rain, birds, bees, strength, etc. The boy promises to take good care of his tree and knows, in return, the tree will provide fruit and shade.  As appropriate for Earth Day as for Tu B’Shevat.  (Ages 3-8)

Gabby & Grandma Go Green written and illustrated by Monica Wellington. ©2011. Beginning with sewing the bags they will use to go shopping, Gabby and her grandmother shop at the Farmer’s Market, walk to the park, recycle their plastic bottles and newspapers and check out Earth Day books at the library. Instructions for making cloth bags and many “Green Tips” accompany the simple text. The brightly colored pictures are a collage of cut-out photographs and gouache on paper artwork.  (Ages 3-7)

A Grand Old Tree written and illustrated by Mary Newell DePalma. ©2005. Arthur A. Levine Books. The life cycle of trees is explained in this marvelously simple yet eloquent book. The bright, colorful tissue paper collage illustrations show a tree filled with life, branching out, creating new trees and finally aging until it’s branches wither back into the earth where it gives life to another generation of trees. (ages 3-7)

Let the Whole Earth Sing Praise illustrated by Tomie dePaola.  ©2011. G.P. Putnam’s Sons.  Inspired by Psalm 148, this exquisitely illustrated book is a beautiful prayer for Earth Day and every day. Whenever you want to appreciate the world we live in and renew your pledge to work toward repairing all the harm that has been done to it in recent years, simply pull this book off the shelf. (all ages)

Who Will Plant a Tree? By Jerry Pallotta. Illustrated by Tom Leonard. ©2010. Sleeping Bear Press. An amazing fact of nature is the different ways seeds have found to disperse themselves. Some seeds have developed burrs to stick to the fur coats of black bears, others have tough coverings to withstand being coughed up by an owl or pooped out by an elephant, and even others have developed parachutes to float in the wind. Whatever it is seeds find their way around the environment in a variety of interesting and wily ways. Using simple language and extraordinarily beautiful illustrations, this book for young readers makes it clear that from horses to humans, we all have a role in planting trees around the world. (Ages 4-8)

Any one of these books will enrich and enlighten your Earth Day experience. Most importantly, however, go out and enjoy this beautiful day. Take a walk. Plant a tree. Whatever you do, make sure you honor the earth and everything in it.

Happy Reading,

Kathy B.

©2011 Kathleen M. Bloomfield and all rights reserved.
Books used in this review were provided by the publisher, my local public library or are from my own collection.
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 | The Underneath
by Kathi Appelt

Score: 4.5

Illustrated by David Small © 2008, Atheneum Books for Young Readers. This is not a Jewish book, however it is such a powerful work of fiction filled with story, message and excellent writing that I just have to recommend it. Heroes and villains, humans and animals, fact and fantasy, life and death, past and present [...]

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Take Care of Me, Because You Are the Only One Who Can.

My colleagues on the Sydney Taylor Book Awards Committee know that I have a certain “sensitivity” when the subject of animals in books is discussed. I generally begin any review I write or discussion I am involved in around this topic with the following disclaimer:

WARNING: The Reviewer has a Degree in  ZOOLOGY and does not believe animals experience EMOTIONS the same way humans experience emotions.

It should therefore come as no surprise, then, when I say I had a rather visceral reaction to Jennifer Armstrong’s essay in the Horn Book magazine entitled, “Eating Reading Animals.” In it, Ms. Armstrong attempts to make the case that “if you love children’s literature, you cannot kill animals just because they taste good on a bun.”

In the interest of full disclosure, I will tell you that I eat meat, usually chicken, occasionally beef and lamb, rarely veal, never pork or anything that has lived in water. I eat my meat in small amounts, preferring a majority of vegetables and grains in my diet. I have found however, that meat protein works best with my metabolism. I do my best to buy farm-raised meat from local farmers – it just tastes better, and I am told it is better for me. Truth is I would live on dark chocolate if I could, but my doctor says that is not possible.  My family includes a vegetarian (my son), an omnivore like myself (my daughter), and my husband who calls himself a “mixetarian” because he is mostly vegetarian but enjoys a good, extremely rare steak when the opportunity presents itself.

With that, let’s get to the heart of the matter. Ms. Armstrong begins her essay explaining why adults read animal books to children. There are certainly many reasons, but primarily adults use these types of books to assist in developing the moral and ethical standards of the children in their care. Animal books we read to children and the activities we do with them to support those books all provide examples of right behavior.  “Animals teach us ‘humane’ behavior, those behaviors that embody our highest human ideals. All of us concerned with literature for children, and the education and development of children in general, have animal guides to help us in our work,” Ms. Armstrong writes.

She goes on to explain that human history has been on an upturn in the moral/ethical behavior scale over the course of the past few thousand years. Yes, we should try to overlook a few wars, Darfur and the Arizona legislature, “We no longer approve of burning live cats for amusement, as folks in earlier centuries did. Bear-baiting has all but disappeared as a sport, and although dog-fighting and cock-fighting still exist in our own country, they do so illegally, pushed underground by popular opprobrium and the force of law.” Some of us are even beginning to understand that the global climate change that is destroying habitats and endangering species may soon have an impact on human life as well. This is what comes from reading animal-based children’s literature.

However, clearly we have more work to do if the human race is to advance to the next level of enlightenment. We as adults must model for our children the willingness to suppress “those desires that cater to their selfish appetites in preference for upholding the more abstract ideals of dignity, compassion, and justice; in other words, those ideals that serve a greater good” proposes Ms. Armstrong. Apparently, animal books are going to help us do this.

It is at this juncture that Ms. Armstrong and I part ways. Her response to the question: “What is she [a child] to make of the trusted adult who holds in one hand a living baby chick to caress with tender care and a chicken nugget in the other hand to eat with special sauce?” is: Turn our children into vegetarians!

Mine would be quite different. Not every animal is supposed to be a pet. Most animals are part of the food chain, put on this earth to be part of the ecological system in one way or the other. Remember when you were in school and learned about the Life Cycle…the Rhythm of Life…the Circle of Life…the Ecosystem?  Why not teach our children, in our schools about how animals provide food, for each other and for us.

Today – animal books or not – children, and probably some adults as well, have no idea where their food comes from. They walk into a grocery store and everything they want or need is on a shelf, to be tossed in their basket, taken to a cashier and paid for with a piece of plastic.

When I was a girl, we received baby chicks for Easter (remember, I grew up in a Catholic home.) Oh, they were cute, but when they began to grow up, they were not so cute anymore. My mother gave the chickens to my grandmother, who raised them in her backyard, where we would go and visit them. Feeding them corn meal and grains along with the occasional worms they found in the grass, they grew into large chickens – one rooster and two hens. The hens laid some eggs that we got to retrieve from the nests the hens built. My grandmother used those eggs for our breakfast during our stay. They were delicious.

During one Sunday visit, grandma told us we were having chicken for dinner. She asked us to join her outside. You can guess what happened next. I have always understood very clearly the meaning of “like a chicken with its head cut off.” Were we upset? I guess, a little. Did we eat the chicken for dinner? Yes, we did, and it was delicious. We understood that this was part of life. We raised the chicken to be eaten, and now we were eating it.

Perhaps the 4-H Clubs, Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts of America could join together to start a program for children. They could raise a few chickens on the school grounds, create a school vegetable garden or use a cow to mow the school lawn. Using the products from the “School Farm” in the school’s cafeteria, they could teach children about the proper way to care for animals so that the animals live healthy lives and so can they. Everyone knows that a big pot of vegetable chicken soup is nature’s best medicine, right?

I believe the moral and ethical thing to do is work toward a world where we support farmers who properly and humanely raise domestic livestock, fruits and vegetables using methods that do not compromise the people who work on the farm, the animals or the earth. The food that comes from these farms will be available at a reasonable cost. It will of course be healthy and delicious. There will be no need to visit fast food restaurants.

Rather than suppressing our appetite for all meat to “serve the greater good,” we should suppress our appetite for all food processed using unjust and inhumane methods – that might include vegetables harvested using migrant workers who are underpaid and receive no benefits.

Doing the right thing is never easy. Showing children how to properly care for our earth, and all its inhabitants – animal, vegetable and mineral – is our responsibility as adults. Buying food, produce or any kind of product produced locally is a much greater commitment than simply becoming a vegetarian.

The animals in children’s literature do not cry out to me, “Don’t eat me!” They cry out, “Take care of me and my world, because you are the only one who can.”

Happy Reading,

Kathy B.

©2010 Kathleen M. Bloomfield and all rights reserved.

Book Review | Sparrow Girl
by Sara Pennypacker

Score: 4

Illustrated by Yoko Tanaka © 2009, Disney-Hyperion Books. In 1958, Mao Tse-Tung declared a war on four pests – rats, flies, mosquitoes and sparrows.  SPARROWS? Why, sparrows? Because sparrows ate grain and the population of China was starving. Sparrows were declared enemies of the people and a massive campaign was waged to eliminate them from [...]

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