6 Best Jewish Books For Kids Update 05/2022

It’s the best time of the year: “best of the year” lists are made. There were many interfaith families in some of this year’s best Jewish books for kids. There were also books that explored Jewish identity, including not one but two b’nai mitzvah that were not expected. It was also a great year for books about Jewish women who aren’t well-known. Books for older kids, on the other hand, were often filled with anti-Semitism in the present day.

This year, there were a lot of great Jewish picture books, as well as a wide range of them. A lot of books about Shabbat and everyday childhood stories with a Jewish twist were in this year’s picture books. The places where they lived and worked were spread out from Iraq to the American Midwest, from the 17th century to the present day. Good news for kids and parents: They can read the books below again and again and enjoy them.

The Christmas Mitzvah by Jeff Gottesfeld, illustrated by Michelle Laurentia Agatha

This is a beautiful book both visually and in terms of its story. It tells the story of Al Rosen, a Jew who worked for Christians on Christmas Eve for years so they could spend time with their families. This is a story that is both true and made up. In the beginning of the book, the author says that it’s OK to admire someone else’s religious traditions. “Al Rosen was a Jewish man who was in love with Christmas,” says the text. Peace on Earth and goodwill to all people? “It wasn’t his holiday, but what could be bad about that? When the illustrator used a warm color palette to emphasize how good the story makes you feel, he or she made sure that the people Al helped were as diverse as any urban population. Not just in terms of race, ethnicity, and religion but also in terms of their clothes, hairstyles, and other unique features (e.g., a nose ring).

Lights in the Night by Chris Barash and illustrated by Maya Shleifer

Besides the prism of the candles we light on Friday night, this gentle story of Shabbat is also told through other sources of light, like a nightlight that soothes a child until morning. The book tells the story of an unknown child and his parents as they go on a Shabbat picnic by the sea. The mostly gray and yellow color scheme is very relaxing and goes well with the rhyming text. With glow-in-the-dark ink, hold the pages under a flashlight for a while before reading. This big board book will be a hit with kids. If you want to buy Lights in the Night now, you can order it from its UK publisher, Green Bean Books. It won’t be on Amazon until February 2022.

Baby Moses in a Basket by Caryn Yacowitz, illustrated by Julie Downing, and Esther Didn’t Dream of Being Queen by Allison Ofanansky, illustrated by Valentina Belloni.

Baby Moses in a Basket and Esther Didn’t Dream of Being Queen are two good exceptions to the rule. Most holiday books are bad. Yacowitz imagines the animals that might have kept Moses safe until he was rescued by Pharaoh’s daughter. He uses a songlike structure and rhyme to do this. Ofanansky does a good job of simplifying Purim’s complicated story, and her idea of comparing Esther to Cinderella, an orphan who became a queen, works so well that it’s hard to believe it hadn’t been done before. She says, “[W]hen I became queen, my story was just beginning.”

Gitty and Kvetch by Caroline Kusin Pritchard, illustrated by Ariel Landy.

They will make both kids and adults who read to them smile. Gitty and Kvetch are both optimistic. This is a very simple story: Gitty’s painting is ruined, and her seemingly unlimited optimism turns out to be not so unlimited after all. But friendship is what saves the day. This book is full of Yiddish words, so it’s a good one to read aloud to your kids. I also liked that Kvetch’s true nature stayed the same at the end of the book. There was no “feel-good” transformation here.

A Bear for Bimi by Jane Breskin Zalben, illustrated by Yevgenia Nayberg.

This new picture book about refugees is told in a light and child-friendly way. The names of Evie and her father, Abe Gold, and the fact that Evie’s grandparents came to the U.S. from “another country” aren’t very obvious, but Jewish values are all over this story. In order to welcome their new neighbors, who are Muslim refugees, Evie and her parents helped them decorate their new home. Evie’s brother, Bimi, is around Evie’s age. They eventually get everyone in the neighborhood, even Mrs. Monroe, to join them. As a child reads this, he or she will understand why Evie wants to help. Evie gives Bimi the title bear and gives Evie a marble from his grandmother’s garden. One of my favorite illustrators, Yevgenia Nayberg, did the art for this book. The bright, warm colors and bold shapes make this book even more appealing.

The Story of Bodri by Hédi Fried, illustrated by Stina Wirsén

May be a picture book but not for the very young. As a Holocaust survivor, Fried talks about Bodri, her dog. But it is really about her and her sister, who were both killed in the Holocaust. A strong, direct but child-friendly style is how she writes. They were both very good at whistling and were almost the same size. She ran a lot faster than I did, but I was better at reading than her. Prayers were the only thing that made us two different people. We said them in different ways. It’s the same thing as when Marika went to church and I went to synagogue. I was a Jew. She was not. That’s not the case with Fried. She doesn’t hold back from telling the truth about what happened to her and many other people. Wirsén’s illustrations are beautiful, with a lot of color. Hédi and her sister are shown behind barbed wire, and a nearly bald Hédi meets up with Bodri. Fried, on the other hand, doesn’t hide from the harsh realities of the Holocaust. The author doesn’t say what happened to her parents, but adult readers will be able to figure it out on their own.

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