Featured Reviews

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.


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.

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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:


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.”


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.


 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.



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.”


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.

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Standing Up Straight: Zokeif K’fufim/Who Straightens the Bent

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 fourth 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 straightens the bent.”

  Thus far, we have praised God for the miracle of awakening from a night of restful sleep with:

  • the awareness that it is day not night.
  • the ability to see the sun shining.
  • the muscles to free ourselves from the captivity of our bedding.

Now, we show gratitude to God for giving us the strength to get out of bed and stand up straight and tall as we begin our day. It all seems so simple, so easy. As healthy people, we rarely think about what it might be like to lose the ability to get out of bed in the morning.

Yet there is so much in today’s world that can weigh us down, overwhelm us, keep us bent. Physical impairments, emotional concerns, stress from work, home or family, not getting enough sleep, an improper diet, not enough exercise – any of these and more can turn us upside down. We all need help staying straight and strong – to get through each day.  Support can be found in many forms – a consistent exercise routine, regular meetings with friends or family, prayer, meditation, special diets or reading. Whatever the method, keeping ourselves and our growing families’ straight and strong is a valuable tool for getting through life, a tool for which we should be constantly thankful.

Happy Reading!

Kathy B.

Here are a few books to help start your day straight, strong and with lots of energy:

alefbetyogaAlef-Bet Yoga for Kids by Ruth Goldeen. Photos by Bill Goldeen. ©2009. KarBen Publishing. Ages 5-10. This excellent book will help your child understand the benefits of yoga stretches, while teaching them the Hebrew Alef-Bet at the same time. Make a game of it and spell out Hebrew words or names using the Alef-Bet poses provided.


Hop, Hop, Jump! By Lauren Thompson. Illustrated by Jarret J. Krosoczka. ©2012. Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing. Ages 3-8. “Move your body!” begins this book and the kids pictured never stop jumping, stomping, hopping, shaking and moving until the very end. A great way to start any day.

 LoebshakinLisa Loeb’s Songs for Movin’ & Shakin’: The Air Band Song and Other Toe-Tapping Tunes by Lisa Loeb. Illustrated by Ryan O’Rourke. ©2013. Sterling Children’s books. Ages 4-10. Get out your air guitars, air drums and air pianos, it’s time to make a  little music! While you’re at it, shake your body, kick your feet and clap your hands. There is a whole lot of energy to be generated by the songs in this little book.

 StretchStretch by Doreen Croni. Illustrated by Scott Menchin. ©2009. Atheneum Books for Young Readers. Ages 3-6 years. Stretching is one of the best ways to keep muscles strong and limber. The pooch in this charming book demonstrates a variety of ways to stretch our muscles, including the muscles in our brain…by using our imagination!

 wakdragonWaking Dragons by Jane Yolen. Illustrated by Derek Anderson. ©2012. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers. Ages 2-6. In the spirit of the “Dinosaurs…” books that Jane Yolen has written so beautifully, this book about a tiny knight who is responsible for making sure the house dragons get up and get ready for the day will have young and old giggling over how difficult it can actually be to get “some creatures” ready to start the day!


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


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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.


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.

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October Jewish Book Carnival


Sitting here preparing this month’s Jewish Book Carnival, I am happy to have something to think about other than the mess that is occurring practically outside my front door in the United States Capitol building. Since moving to Washington, DC last November, I have been thrilled at the opportunities presented by living “in the District.”  From seeing Thomas Jefferson’s Library at the Library of Congress to walking to the National Book Festival and poster_enlargehaving my FREE poster signed by the illustrator, Suzy Lee,  I have been able to enjoy the best of my and your tax payer dollars almost every weekend – until the government closed.  I pray that wisdom (and compassion for the 800,000 unemployed workers) will enter the minds of our Congress people and a resolution to this deadlock will be found. Perhaps they can find something in this month’s Carnival, a rare gathering of blogs about Jewish books and other happenings in the Jewish world, to assist them with making the important decisions required to keep our country afloat and at the forefront of the nations of the world.  As for you, please take time to visit every one of this month’s participants, and be sure to leave a comment on the web sites telling them you saw their post at the October Jewish Book Carnival.

The Jewish Book Carnival is a great place to get ideas for books to read and things to do. I just finished The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker (which was fantastic!) just because of the great reviews I read on Carnival postings. It appears that a lot of reading took place this past month, judging by the number of book reviews I received. Get ready to make your reading list now, there are some great choices here!

Let’s start with children’s books:

BarbaraBoyMath Bietz at Jewish Books for Kids interviews Deborah Heiligman about her new book, The Boy Who Loved Math.



Jill at Rhapsody in Books reviews the companion volume to Code Name Verity – one of last year’s best books! – Rose Under Fire (set in the Ravensbruck concentration camp). This is going at the top of my reading list

MightyHandAs for me, I spent some time at InterfaithFamily.com, looking at what is new and exciting for parents to share Torah stories with their children.



Meghan Wolff, Publicity Coordinator for Kar-Ben Publishing, shares the KarBen blog featuring a story about the newly renovated Jerusalem Railway Station, the same station Engineer Ari took of from:

For the Adults among us:

JBkCNaomi Firestone-Teeter at the Jewish Book Council shares some fantastic non-fiction news – the five finalists for the Sami Rohr Prize.



Batya Medad at  Me-ander reviews  A Bit of Wit, A World of Wisdom by Yehoshua Kurland, Gefen Publishing House

CultbusterAnd over at Shiloh Musings, Batya reviews Confessions of a Jewish Cult Buster by Rabbi Shea Hecht



ElixirOver at The Prosen People, another Jewish Book Council blog, Gabi Gleichman offers some insights into what it was like to write, The Elixir of Immortality, a fictionalized account of the family of Baruch Spinoza.


 Lorri M. reviews Great House by Nicole Krauss.



On My Machberet, Erika Dreifus shares memorable morsels from The Impossible Takes Longer: The Memoirs of Vera Weizmann as told to David Tutaev.

OxfordShortLeora Wenger – who is hosting November’s Jewish Book Carnival – at Sketching Out reviews a variety of short stories from the anthology, The Oxford Book of Hebrew Short Stories.


Heidi Estrin at The Book of Life podcast interviews Maggie Anton about Rav Hisda’s Daughter, Book I: Apprentice: A Novel of Love, the Talmud, and Sorcery. Maggie has a lot of interesting background information to share, including some actual spells!


StartersMy good friend, KSP, at Life is Like a Library, reviews a mouthwatering cookbook Starters & Sides Made Easy.


I hope you enjoyed this month’s Jewish Book Carnival. Again, please take time to visit the bloggers posted here and share that you saw them here!

Happy Reading!

Kathy B.



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