What About the Rest? Part I: Jewish Books for Younger Readers

Having selected my three top choices for the best Jewish children’s books for 2010: The Rooster Prince of Breslov, Hereville and Life, After,  I am feeling a bit guilty about the books I left on the table. Those books that were also great but a choice had to be made, so some excellent books are just sitting here. My list of good Jewish books for 2010 is quite long. In fact, I will add many 2010 books to the forwordsbooks Catalog of Books. Nevertheless, I will follow my rule and go with the standouts – those books I remember and will recommend from the stacks of books I read this year – in choosing titles for my “pretty close to best” list. In keeping with models I have seen elsewhere, I have chosen an additional seven titles, making my list a nice round 10 for 2010.

Jewish Books for Younger Readers (Picture Books)

My problem is I rarely read a children’s picture book I don’t like in some way (unless there is some human-animal conversation in a non-fantasy based story book.) I will admit, however, to being bored reading the same themes in many Jewish picture books, particularly Jewish holidays, Bible stories and the Jewish immigrant experience. That being said, even those subjects can be brought to life in new and creative ways by a talented author and/or illustrator.

After The Rooster Prince of Breslov, which I will continue to say blew me out of the water, there were three additional books for younger readers that really stood out for me this year:

Emma’s Poem: The Voice of the Statue of Liberty by Linda Glaser, illustrated by Claire A. Nivola. Ages 5-10. ©2010, Houghton Mifflin Books for Children. “Give me your tired, your poor,/ Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,/The wretched refuse of your teeming shore./Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,/I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” ~ from The New Colossus by Emma Lazarus ~ Having learned these words by heart in elementary school, I realized reading this marvelous book how much I did not know about the poem, its author and the times in which she lived. Emma Lazarus was able to become the voice of the Statue of Liberty because she met and supported the immigrants that came through New York. The watercolor and gouache illustrations accompanying the simple but powerful text are outstanding and highly reflective of early 19th century artwork.

Jackie’s Gift by Sharon Robinson. Illustrated by E. B. Lewis. ©2010, Viking. Ages 4-8. I am always in search of books about about interfaith relations, the December Dilemma, sharing holidays (not combining holidays) and the like, and while this book may not exactly be in that category, it is currently the closest thing we have been offered this year.  The great Jackie Robinson is moving two houses down from young baseball fan, Steve Satlow, who could not be happier. While some of his neighbors are angry that an African-American family is moving into the neighborhood, Steve and his Jewish-American family befriend the Robinsons the moment they move in. The new friendship blossoms until Jackie brings a Christmas tree over to the Satlows as a way to thank them for their warm welcome. Once the Robinson’s realize their mistake and the Satlow’s clear any misunderstanding, a family legend is born.  This charming story celebrates sharing traditions, fostering real friendship and the true meaning of giving.

Modeh Ani: A Good Morning Book Adapted by Sarah Gershman. Illustrated by Kristina Swarner. ©2010, EKS Publishing Company. Ages 2-8. In this companion volume to their Sydney Taylor Award winning, The Bedtime Shema: A Goodnight Book, Gershman and Swarner once again team up, this time to help us start the day thanking God for the gifts that surround us. Using simple language and soft, brightly colored illustrations, they set the tone for a day filled with wonder and gratitude. Excerpts from the traditional Morning Blessing prayers in Hebrew and English translation are provided in the back of the book along with an explanation of how to incorporate the Modeh Ani into your daily living.  Couple this with All of Me! A Book of Thanks by Molly Bang and your family’s day will start off great.

Those are my picks for “pretty close to best” 2010 Jewish Books for Young Readers. Tomorrow, What About the Rest? Part II: “pretty close to best” Books for Older Readers (Middle Grades).

Happy Reading,

Kathy B.

©2010 Kathleen M. Bloomfield and forwordsbooks.com all rights reserved.
Books used in this review were provided by my own collection or my local public library.
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