Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

We Are Jews: She-asani Yisrael/ Who made me a Jew

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.

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 We are on the twelfth 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 made me a Jew.”

 When my husband and I were married, we had a Catholic priest and a rabbi perform the wedding ceremony. Because the Catholic priest would be doing most of the ritual, my husband (the Jewish party) had to agree to raise our children as Catholics.  You can understand, then, that when our son was born (almost 30 years ago,) and my husband said he wanted him to be Jewish, that I was a bit shocked. I had thought the decision was made. Yet there we were spending hours discussing the pros and cons of each of our faiths. Ultimately, after a lot of searching and researching, we decided on Judaism.

Recently, memories of those discussions flooded my mind with the news that three teenage boys had been murdered in Israel. While there may be debate about the appropriateness of their being out, alone, hitchhiking in Gaza late at night, the fact is they are dead. And they are dead for the simple reason that they were Jews. That truth has brought all of those endless discussions between my spouse and I back into very clear focus.  I vividly recall saying to my husband more than once, “You are asking me to make a choice that could ultimately result in the death of my child for the simple reason that we made this choice for him. People will hate him, find ways to hurt him and perhaps want to kill him, just because we decide to make him Jewish – AND FOR NO OTHER REASON.”

As I write this, I am hearing the awful news that a young Muslim/Israeli boy (15 years old, from East Jerusalem,) was kidnapped and murdered – possibly burned alive – by what appears to be Jewish fanatics looking for revenge. This tears at my heart as much as the murder of the three Jewish/Israeli teens. What right do we…does any individual have to take life for any reason? Will the murder of this child bring those other three children back? I wish…I hope the people of Israel will read the message of Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, an Orthodox rabbi I greatly admire.  “Say Kaddish,” he writes. “Do Kaddish…” he goes on. Study Torah, give Tzedakah, perform mitzvot…make the world a better place. Honor these FOUR teenage boys who died needlessly.

I believe we made the right choice for our children, just as I know I made the right choice for myself. Everything about Judaism resonates with me and my beliefs in how people should care for themselves, care for each other and care for the world around them. Judaism is a faith that cherishes life over everything—Jewish zealots notwithstanding—using each moment of our precious time on earth to find a way to be our best selves and help in repairing the world. Clearly, we have a lot of work to do, and once the mourning period is over, we will be back at it.

Rabbi Steinsaltz knows. Jewish fanatics apparently do not. The Jewish People will survive this tragedy, just as we survived the murder of Daniel Pearl, the slaughter of the Israeli Olympic team, and the horrors of the Holocaust…Because we are Jews.

Happy Reading!

Kathy B.

CelebrateHolidays

Celebrate: A Book of Jewish Holidays. By Judi Gross. Illustrated by Bari Weissman. ©2005. Grosset & Dunlap. Ages 3-8.  This small, concise little paperback illustrates and celebrates the major Jewish holidays from Rosh Hashanah through Passover and includes Shabbat. A fun, simple book for the entire family to enjoy throughout the year.

 ItsItsItsaMitzvahIt’s a…It’s a…It’s a Mitzvah. By Elizabeth Suneby and Diane Heiman. Illustrated by Laurel Molk. ©2012. Jewish Lights Publishing. Ages 4-8. Happy Meerkats teach young children the joys of performing Mitzvot and doing tikkun olam to help heal the world. Demonstrating easy to do tasks that can bring joy to others, these charmingly illustrated creatures show children how Jewish wisdom can be part of their lives as well.

Jewish ChJewishChildWhyild’s First Book of Why. By Alfred J. Kolatch. Illustrated by Harry Araten. ©1992. Jonathan David Publishers. Ages 4-8. The traditions and customs of Judaism are explained using simple language and captivating illustrations. Questions like: “Why do we fast on Yom Kippur?” and “Why do we plant trees?”  are answered in a style that even the youngest child can understand.

JKidsCatalog

The Jewish Kids’ Catalog. By Chaya Burstein. ©1998. The Jewish Publication Society. Ages 7-11.  For older children, this is Basic Judaism in a book. From Jewish History to Jewish Holidays, with songs, crafts, and a ton of information about important Jewish People and Sites, everything your child wants to know about Judaism is close at hand.

WhatMakesJewWhat Makes Someone a Jew? By Lauren Seidman. Illustrated with photographs. ©2007. Jewish Lights Publishing. Ages 4-8. This very modern look at Judaism reinforces that being Jewish is about doing good in the world and not how you look or where you live. Filled with photographs of Jews from around the world, adopted children, individuals who have converted to Judaism and any other person who might be considered Jewish, children will enjoy exploring and finding themselves in the photos and the simple, rhyming text.

 

 

 

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

 

The Power of Water: Roka Haaretz al Hamayim/Who Spreads Out the Earth Over the Waters

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.

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We are on the fifth 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 spreads the earth over the waters.”

I cannot help but think about the power of water when reciting this blessing. The image that comes to mind is of rushing waters being held back by stretches of land. Since approximately 70% of the earth’s surface is water, it seems like a losing battle. Certainly the recent tragedy in the Philippines along with Hurricane Sandy, Japan’s Tsunami, Hurricane Katrina and many other water catastrophes prove the point.

Global warming, climate change, environmental degradation and more are all contributing to a rise in planetary water issues. Whether too much or not enough, the power of water can be felt all over the world.  Yet, we are the only creatures who can do anything to change the current course of environmental destruction.  While every day we thank God for the daily miracle that is the ground beneath our feet, we must also pray for the wisdom to make the necessary behavioral modifications that will insure that ground remains available to us and future generations.

Happy Reading!

Kathy B.

These SeasThese Seas Count by Alison Formento. Illustrated by Sarah Snow. ©2013. Albert Whitman & Company. Ages 6-10.  This charming book is so much more than a child’s counting book. An introduction to the ecology of the ocean and what happens when any body of water is damaged by pollution, this is a child’s first introduction to helping keep the earth clean and healthy.

KentaWave Kenta and the Big Wave Written and Illustrated By Ruth Ohi. ©2013. Annick Press. Ages 5-8.  An amazing story, based on real life accounts, of a soccer ball that is swept away during Japan’s Tsumani yet finds its way across the ocean to another country then back to its owner.

TsunamiYoungTsunami by Kimiko Kajikawa. Illustrated by Ed Young. ©2009. Philomel. Ages 5-9.  How much would you be willing to lose to save the lives of others? In this remarkable story, a rich, old man realizes he must give up most of his wealth in order to alert his village of an oncoming tsunami.

endurArk

Tsunami Written and illustrated  by Joydeb and Moyna Chitrakar. ©2012. Tara Books. Ages 10-18. This remarkable book is at once the story of the Tsunami that swept ThailaTsunamiTarand in 2004 and a graphically illustrated scroll depicting that event. Called a “Patua,” this is a form of performance art that is used in India to tell both traditional folktales and current news to villagers throughout the  area.  This team also created The Enduring Ark, the story of Noah’s Ark, told in this same “Patua” scroll style.

 GoingBlueGoing Blue: A Teen Guide to SAVING Our Oceans, Lakes, Rivers, & Wetlands by Cathryn Berger Kaye & Phillipe Cousteau. ©2010. Free Spirit Publishing. Ages 12-18 years. This book is a “Call to Action” for our teens to move from the extraordinary work they have done saving the earth by “Going Green,” to now saving the earth’s water supplies by “Going Blue.” Loaded with information, reference material and social action project, this is an excellent resource for teens, their families and teachers.

 

©2013 Kathleen M. Bloomfield and forwordsbooks.com. All rights reserved.

A Thanksgivukkah Book List

Books used in this review are from my personal library, were provided as review copies by the publisher or come from 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.

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Although I am not fond of this Hanukkah + Thanksgiving = “Thansgivukkah” idea, the fact is it has infiltrated the Jewish world like a virus. T-shirts, Turkey Menorahs, special holiday recipes and crafts abound! So, while my family and I will be celebrating the holidays as separately as we can, I am succumbing to the desire to provide some additional information for those that want it. Hence this list of books compiled at the behest of Heidi Estrin, friend, Librarian extraordinaire, and President of the Association of Jewish Libraries, who has an outstanding list on Facebook.

I have not, as yet, found a “Thanksgivukkah” title – nor will we need one for another 80,000 years – so we will have to satisfy ourselves with what we have. Below, please find a list of the books I have recommended for Thanksgiving and Hanukkah over the past few years:

Thanksgiving

adamevesunsetAdam & Eve’s First Sunset: God’s New Day. Written by Sandy Sasso Eisendberg. Illustrated by Joani Keller Rothenberg. Jewish Lights Publishing, ©2003. Ages 6-10. On their first day in the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve notice that the sun is moving down in the sky. Try as they might, nothing they can do – neither praise nor shouting – will stop the sun from setting and disappearing. Even though God teaches them to create fire, they spend the night cold, afraid and restless. When the sun comes up the next morning, they realize that day and night are part of God’s creation, for which they are very thankful.

All of Me!

All of Me! A Book of Thanks. Written and illustrated by Molly Bang. Scholastic, Inc., ©2009. Ages 3-7. This is the perfect book to introduce young children to thanking God for the miracle of the human body and all its functions. Using charming, bright illustrations and simple text, it celebrates the head to toe, inside and outside marvel that is each and every one of us.

onefeastmouseOne is a Feast for Mouse: A Thanksgiving Tale. Written by Judy Cox. Illustrated by Jeffrey Ebbeler. Holiday House, ©2008. Ages 4-8. After Thanksgiving dinner, when everyone is resting after the feast, Mouse sneaks out to find a little something. He spies a pea, a perfect dinner for a little mouse, but then he sees a cranberry, an olive, a carrot, mashed potatoes…sometimes our eyes are bigger than our stomach and can lead us into big trouble!

splattySplat Says Thank You! Written and illustrated by Rob Scotton. HarperCollins Publishers, ©2012. Ages 3-8. Splat the Cat’s friend, Seymour the Mouse, is very sick with spots all over his body. To make Seymour smile, Splat creates a Friendship Book filled with pictures and memories of all the times Seymour has helped Splat. It is Splat’s way of saying “Thank You” to Seymour for being “my smallest friend and my biggest.”

tablerichsit

The Table Where Rich People Sit By Byrd Baylor. Illustrated by Peter Parnall. Aladdin Paperbacks, © 1994. Ages 4-8. A young girl wants to prove to her parents that the family is poor, until they show her that money may not be everything that makes a family rich.

TYsarah

 Thank You, Sarah: The Woman Who Saved Thanksgiving by Laurie Halse Anderson. Illustrated by Matt Faulkner. © 2002, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers. Ages 5-10. “Pick up your pen. Change the world.” That is what Sarah Hale did, and because she did, we celebrate Thanksgiving every year.  It took this strong, dynamic woman over 38 years to get an American president to declare Thanksgiving a national holiday. This is the remarkable story of how she did it.

towncountrymouseTown Mouse, Country Mouse By Jan Brett. Illustrated by Jan Brett. G.P. Putnam’s Sons, © 1994. Ages 4-8. The classic fable with the moral: Better poor and peaceful than rich and fearful.

 

 Hanukkah

chanukahlightChanukah Lights by Michael Rosen. Illustrated by Robert Sabuda. © 2011, Candlewick Press. Ages 6-Adult. Winner of the 2012 Association of Jewish Libraries Sydney Taylor Book Awards (the Jewish equivalent of the Caldecott Honor), this marvel of pop-up engineering takes the reader on a 2000 year tour through Jewish history. From the Temple in Jerusalem where Hanukkah began, across deserts, over oceans, into shtetls and onto kibbutz farm land, each two page spread is an enriching and engaging exploration of how the Hanukkah lights have always been a beacon of hope for the Jewish people.

borisstellaBoris and Stella and the Perfect Gift written and illustrated by Dara Goldman. © 2013 Sleeping Bear Press. Ages 5-9. Boris and Stella love each other very much. So at Christmas time, Boris wants to give Stella something beautiful for her Christmas tree. At Hanukkah, Stella wants to give Boris the most exquisite driedel for his collection. When the time comes to exchange gifts, however, they realize how little gifts matter and how much they really do love each other. A lovely interfaith rendition of O. Henry’s “Gift of the Magi.”

Harvest of LightHarvest of Light by Alison Ofanansky. Photographs by Eliyahu Alpern. © 2008 Kar-Ben Publishing. Ages 4-9.  Imagine gathering the olives that will make the oil to be used to light your Hanukkah menorah. In this wonderful picture book, we once again join the Israeli family as they take us step-by-step through the process of harvesting the olives from the trees, sorting them, cleaning them and taking them to the press to be made into olive oil for their food and fuel.

HershelandhanukkahgoblinsHershel and the Hanukkah Goblins By Eric Kimmel. Illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman. Holiday House,  ©1985. Ages 5-9. If I was stranded on a desert island, this is the one book I would want to have with me. I read this book every Hanukkah, to children and adults alike, as the story of Hershel outwitting the King of the Goblins and winning back Hanukkah for a poor town is just that good.

hanukkahbearHanukkah Bear by Eric Kimmel. Illustrated by Wohnoutka. Holiday House, ©2013. Ages 5-9. In this shortened, re-illustrated version of Kimmel’s Chanukah Guest, we still find the near-sighted, hard-of-hearing Bubbe mistaking a bear for her rabbi and cooking up her world famous latkes, lighting the menorah and playing driedel with him. All the charm and hilarity of the story, fortunately, was left intact.

dinoschanukahHow Do Dinosaurs Say Happy Chanukah? By Jane Yolen. Illustrated by Mark Teague. Scholastic, Inc., ©2012. Ages 3-8.  The How Do Dinosaurs…series is among my favorites, as they provide parents and children with a variety of laughable situations to review proper behavior. Yolen and Teague’s newest book once again uses their rowdy dinosaurs to demonstrate the appropriate form-this time of Chanukah conduct.

mytwoholidaysMy Two Holidays: A Hanukkah and Christmas Story By Danielle Novack. Illustrated by Phyllis Harris. Scholastic, Inc., ©2010. Ages 3-8. As Sam listens to his classmates, he learns that they all celebrate just one holiday – Christmas or Hanukkah—while he and his family celebrate two – Christmas AND Hanukkah. He is embarrassed to tell this to his friends, until he talks to his mother. She explains that their celebrations are “one of the things that makes their family special.”

sadiemenorah

Sadie’s Almost Marvelous Menorah by Jamie Korngold. Illustrated by Julie Fortenberry. © 2013 Kar-Ben Publishing. Ages 3-8. What happens when you spend days making a Marvelous Hanukkah Menorah, but smash it when you run to show it to your mom? Well, if you are Sadie, you come up with a wonderful new tradition for your family! A beautifully illustrated, charmingly told story of turning heartbreak into delight.

Snowsnowdaymouse Day for MouseBy Judy Cox. Illustrated by Jeffrey Ebbeler. Holiday House, ©2012. Ages 3-8. Mouse is back (One is a Feast for Mouse) and excited that snow is falling. A snow day has been declared, so there is no school. Mom is baking cookies, and Mouse is picking up the crumbs when Mom gets out the broom and sweeps him out the door with Cat! Fortunately, three kind-hearted birds protect Mouse from Cat and help him enjoy the time outside. Mouse repays their kindness with some generosity of his own.

 

 ©2013 Kathy Bloomfield and forwordsbooks.com. All rights reserved.

Blog Action Day 2013: Human Rights

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.

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I am honored to once again be participating in Blog Action Day, an annual free event that unites the world’s bloggers around a single theme for one day each year in order to raise awareness and understanding. This year’s theme is Human Rights.

In 1948, following the horrors of World War II, the United Nations created “The Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” a list of 30 ideas that represent the most basic rights of every human being. Since its creation, this document has been translated into 413 different languages making it the most translated text in the world.

It seems like simple common sense, right? Every human on this planet, no matter where they live, has certain fundamental rights that should be/must be protected. How, in a world filled with such technological prowess, medical knowledge, scientific genius and unbelievable wealth, can there be anyone, anywhere still suffering? Yet, you only have to pick up a newspaper, listen to the radio or watch the news to know that – even in our own country – some of these rights are not being respected, protected or preserved.

As always, my hope lies with the children and with those who write for and about them. The power of children’s literature can never be underestimated. That is why I continue to look for those books that empower parents to empower their children with the values and resources they will need in their future as caretakers and protectors of this world.

Happy Reading!

Kathy B.

Introduce your children to this amazing document using these kid-friendly books:

EveryHumanEvery Human has Rights: A Photographic Declaration for Kids by National Geographic with a foreword by Mary Robinson. ©2009, National Geographic Society. Ages 10-18. Each of the 30 statements in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is illustrated by a photograph which is accompanied by a caption explaining where the photo was taken and when. This is an excellent starting point for discussion with older kids as some of the photos are very clear examples of the statement involved, while others may require a bit of explanation.

BornFree

We are All Born Free: The Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Pictures by Amnesty International. ©2008, Frances Lincoln Children’s Books. Ages 7-12. In honor of the 60th  anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Amnesty International invited 30 world renowned children’s book illustrators to create illustrations for each of the 30 statements in the document. The product of their endeavor is a rich and powerful tribute to the meaning of the words as seen through the eyes of children.

 

TikvahRightsTikvah: Children’s Book Creators Reflect on Human Rights by Norman B. Stevens, with an introduction by Elie Wiesel. ©1999, North-South Books.  All Ages, Forty-four artists, 14 Caldecott Award winners, take the issue of Human Rights to heart. With pen and ink, brush and paint, and accompanying explanatory text, each artist takes us into an issue that resonates with them on a personal level. The power of their art, along with the power of their words cannot help but move you to action.

 

 ©2013 Kathy Bloomfield and forwordsbooks.com. All rights reserved.

Let My People Go! Pidyon Shvuyim/Freeing the Captive

Books used in this review are from my personal library, were provided by my local public library or were sent to me by a publisher for review. 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.
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We are on the third 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 frees the captive.”

In our modern world, finding everyday miracles can be challenging.  Opportunities to ransom people from slavery or captivity do not present themselves on a daily basis, at least not in obvious ways. That is not to say these concepts do not exist, they are most certainly present, just not in a form we may recognize. Instead of chains of iron, we have chains of hunger, hatred, debt or lack of education. Individuals may be “in captivity” as a result of illness, disability or abuse.  To search for modern day captives, we must be aware of the world around us and its possibilities.  Then we must ask ourselves if we are doing all that we can to “free the captives” who are trapped in a way that keep them far from those possibilities.

Releasing those chains could be as simple as providing a ride to the doctor for your elderly neighbor who has a serious chest cold or as difficult as publishing a letter to convince world leaders to take some real action regarding Global Climate Change. This is where one of my favorite quotes comes in:

 Rabbi Tarfon used to say:

“It is not your duty to complete the work, but neither are you free to desist from it.” ~ Pirke Avot 2:21

We all have our limits – age, resources, space, energy, you name it – however, those limits do not preclude us for doing something…some…thing…to free someone from a difficulty that binds them. I know I cannot fix the Israeli-Palestinian situation, problems in Syria, hunger in America, gun violence, the imminent shut down of the US government or any of the innumerable crises I read about in the newspaper every day.  I can hand a protein bar to the person on the street asking for money and feel like I provided some nutrition to that individual. I can stand up to someone cursing on the bus when children are present and tell them to stop. I can write and link readers to books that may help them help others. While that certainly is not going to “complete the work,” I feel like I have made a good start.

Happy Reading,

Kathy B.

Here are some books that may help you find the “captives” in your world. Look around, you will be surprised how helpful you can be when your eyes are wide open.

FreedomHillLegend of Freedom Hill by Linda Jacobs Altman. Illustrated by Ying-Hwa Hu. ©2003, Lee & Low Books.  Ages 5-10. In a California Gold Rush town, Sophie, a Jewish girl, and Rosabel, and African American girl, become close friends because they are unique from everyone else. When a slave catcher captures Rosabel’s mother, the two girls use all they know about the town and its surroundings to raise enough money to redeem her and several other slaves.  A beautiful example of the mitzvah of Pidyon Shvuyim/Freeing the Captive.

SaySomething

Say Something by Peggy Moss. Illustrated by Lea Lyon.  ©2004, Tilbury House Publishers.  Ages 6-11. The narrator in this timely book sees children in her school who are teased and picked on. While she does not participate, neither does she say anything to stop the actions of her peers. When the day arrives that she is the focus of the teasing and bullying, she realizes that none of her “friends” came to her aid. Her experience frees her from staying away from others for no reason and from staying silent.

PlayingWarPlaying War by Kathy Beckwith. Illustrated by Lea Lyon. ©2005, Tilbury House Publishers. Ages 5-10. On a day too hot to play basketball, Luke and his friends decide to play War. Sameer, who is new to the neighborhood, declines to play and reveals that he has lived in a war zone.  Sharing his story teaches his new friends that “playing war” may not be such a good idea after all.

The Forgiveness Garden by Lauren Thompson. Illustrated by Christy Hale. ©2012, Feiwel and Friends. Ages 5-10. Two villages living across the river from one another have a long history of mutual contempt.  When a young boy from one village throws a rock that hits a young girl from the other, anger, fear,  and hatred reach a fever pitch. The boy is captured by the girl’s village, and she is asked to throw a rock at him to begin another war. Instead she throws the rock to the ground and begins building a Forgiveness Garden where the two villages can to talk about their past and learn about each other.

PigeonPigeonettePigeon and Pigeonette By Dirk Derom. Illustrations by Sarah Verroken.  ©2009, Enchanted Lion Books. Ages 4-10. Pigeonette’s wings are so small he cannot fly. Pigeon is blind and cannot see where he is going. Understanding that each needs help from the other, they become good friends. After many attempts to learn the ups and downs of navigation and flying, they work together to leave the cold winter forest to travel to the place of sun and warm toes.

BeatriceGoat

Beatrice’s Goat by Page McBrier. Illustrated by Lori Lohstoeter.  ©2001, Atheneum Books for Young Readers. Ages 4-10. Beatrice lives in a small village in Uganda where she must help her mother take care of the smaller children, plant the fields, feed the chickens and grind cassava into flour. What Beatrice really wants to do is go to school and learn to read and write. There is no money for books or a uniform, however.  When the news comes that they are going to receive a goat, the lives of Beatrice and her family take an amazing turn for the better.

Also read  GiveGoatGive a Goat by Jan West Schrock, illustrated by Aileen Darragh, a wonderful companion to Beatrice’s Goat.

 

 

 

 

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