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Rosh Hashanah 2018/5779

Today is Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year (year 5779!); Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, begins next Tuesday, September 18, at sundown. These are times in the year for family, community, and self-reflection (and our thoughts are with Shoshana’s family!). My family started a new, anachronistic “tradition” by making purple-potato latkes — with applesauce, does that count?

The following books could be useful for sharing with children and/or for generating discussions. All reviews are from The Horn Book Guide. For more, visit the Association of Jewish Libraries and the Sydney Taylor Book Award list.

Adler, David A. Yom Kippur Shortstop
32 pp. Behrman/Apples & Honey 2017. ISBN 978-1-68115-521-0
Gr. K-3 Illustrated by Andre Ceolin. Jacob is devoted to his Little League team–and also to his family’s practice of Judaism. When the championship game lands on Yom Kippur, Jacob is torn between whether to play ball or observe the solemn holiday. Although he does make the expected choice (synagogue), his decision-making is believably complex. Cheery illustrations show the various diverse and dynamic “teams” to which Jacob belongs.

cohen_engineerariCohen, Deborah Bodin Engineer Ari and the Rosh Hashanah Ride
32 pp. Kar-Ben 2008. ISBN 978-0-8225-8648-7

Gr. K-3 Illustrated by Shahar Kober. In 1892, Ari is chosen to drive the first train from Jaffa to Jersusalem at Rosh Hashanah. In his excitement and pride, he ignores two friends, which he later regrets. Ari returns to Jaffa as soon as possible to do teshuvah, the annual New Year’s effort to do better. Cheerful illustrations accompany the pleasant but didactic text. With an author’s note. Glos.

greene_secretshofarGreene, Jacqueline Dembar The Secret Shofar of Barcelona
32 pp. Kar-Ben 2009. ISBN 978-0-8225-9915-9
PE ISBN 978-0-8225-9944-9

Gr. K-3 Illustrated by Doug Chayka. Rafael and his orchestra conductor father live as conversos (Jews who practice their faith in secret) in sixteenth-century Barcelona. The text describes how Rafael manages to blow the shofar for Rosh Hashanah right under the city leaders’ noses. The story is intriguing, but the telling is a little stiff. Well-composed gold-hued paintings illustrate the tale. An author’s note gives more information.

heiligman_celebrate_rosh_largeHeiligman, Deborah Celebrate Rosh Hashanah & Yom Kippur
32 pp. National 2007. ISBN 978-1-4263-0076-9
LE ISBN 978-1-4263-0077-6

Gr. K-3 Holidays around the World series. Heiligman’s writing evokes respect for religious traditions while making them accessible to children. Her use of the inclusive “we” will encourage readers to embrace their own traditions or imagine themselves in less familiar ones. Festive photographs from around the world reinforce the unifying effect of the holidays. Additional facts, a recipe, a map, and a one-page essay about the holidays are appended. Reading list, websites. Glos.

jules_whatawayJules, Jacqueline What a Way to Start a New Year!: A Rosh Hashanah Story
24 pp. Kar-Ben 2013. ISBN 978-0-7613-8116-7
PE ISBN 978-0-7613-8117-4

Gr. K-3 Illustrated by Judy Stead. A series of accidents prevents Dina and her family, who’ve just moved, from celebrating Rosh Hashanah with their former neighbors. Luckily, a new family invites them to dinner after services, making them feel welcome. The be-nice-to-your-neighbor message, reinforced by friendly illustrations, isn’t subtle; kids may enjoy reciting the book’s exasperated refrain (also the title). An explanation of the holiday is included.

Kimmel, Eric A. Big Sam: A Rosh Hashanah Tall Tale
32 pp. Behrman/Apples & Honey 2017. ISBN 978-1-68115-525-8
Gr. K-3 Illustrated by Jim Starr. Jewish giant Samson bakes an enormous challah for Rosh Hashanah and in the process creates some U.S. landmarks (e.g., his mixing bowl is the freshly dug Grand Canyon). “Big Sam” also repairs some natural environments he damaged while baking (after all, the Jewish New Year is about “mending the world”) before celebrating with figures from American folklore. Lush paintings illustrate this entertaining if overtly instructive holiday tall tale.

perez_evenHigherKimmel, Eric A. Even Higher!: A Rosh Hashanah Story by I. L. Peretz
32 pp. Holiday 2009. ISBN 978-0-8234-2020-9

Gr. K-3 Illustrated by Jill Weber. Where does the rabbi disappear to during the days before Rosh Hashanah? His congregants think he visits heaven to intercede for them with God. When a skeptic comes to town, he follows the rabbi and learns of his true (earthly) good deeds. Kimmel’s lively adaptation of the I. L. Peretz tale is well matched by Weber’s spirited, child-friendly mixed-media illustrations.

kropf.itsshofarKropf, Latifa Berry It’s Shofar Time!
24 pp. Kar-Ben 2006. LE ISBN 1-58013-158-1

PS Photographs by Tod Cohen. Clear color photos of preschoolers celebrating Rosh Hashanah are accompanied by simple, large-type descriptions of holiday essentials and related New Year fun. One caveat–any preschooler would find it almost impossible to blow the very long shofar pictured. This book is one of a series of photo-essays about Jewish holidays.

taliaandMarshall, Linda Elovtiz Talia and the Rude Vegetables
24 pp. Kar-Ben 2011. ISBN 978-0-7613-5217-4
PE ISBN 978-0-7613-5218-1

Gr. K-3 Illustrated by Francesca Assirelli. Talia is confounded by her grandmother’s request for some “rude vegetables” (carrots, turnips, potatoes, etc.) for the Rosh Hashanah stew. While digging up an “ornery onion” and “garish garlic,” she thinks about her own behavior; all ends with holiday sweetness. The joke goes on a little long, but the end is rewarding. Autumnal colors and rounded shapes evoke comfortable family scenes.

Marshall, Linda Elovitz Talia and the Very YUM Kippur
24 pp. Kar-Ben 2015. LE ISBN 978-1-4677-5236-7
Gr. K-3 Illustrated by Francesca Assirelli. Linguistic puns propel Talia’s tale of Yom (a.k.a. “Yum”) Kippur. Misunderstanding the term fasting, for example, Talia thinks “it must be a very fast day if no one had time for breakfast.” The stylized illustrations’ warm palette matches the warm relationship between Talia and her grandparents. Like Talia and the Rude Vegetables, this is a bit far-fetched but entertaining.

mcginty_rabbibenjaminMcGinty, Alice B. Rabbi Benjamin’s Buttons
32 pp. Charlesbridge 2014. ISBN 978-1-58089-432-6 Ebook ISBN 978-1-60734-632-6
Gr. K-3 Illustrated by Jennifer Black Reinhardt. Rabbi Benjamin’s congregants present him with a Jewish holiday–themed vest on Rosh Hashanah, but feasting through Sukkot, Hanukkah, and Passover causes the rabbi to literally burst his buttons. There’s much joy in this cheery holiday book, from kid-pleasing sound effects (pop! splat! plop!) to the depiction of a range of Jewish families. Information about and recipes for each holiday are appended. Glos.

newman_here is the worldNewman, Lesléa Here Is the World: A Year of Jewish Holidays
48 pp. Abrams 2014. ISBN 978-1-4197-1185-5
Gr. K-3 Illustrated by Susan Gal. Simple rhyming couplets describe the major Jewish holidays and life cycle events in a child’s first year–from her naming ceremony to a summertime Shabbat–and connects them to the changing seasons. On double-page spreads, sumptuously colored charcoal and digital-collage illustrations capture the warmth and love in a family’s celebrations. Further explanations of each holiday, crafts, and recipes are appended.

olafansky_What-s-the-BuzzOfanansky, Allison What’s the Buzz?: Honey for a Sweet New Year
32 pp. Kar-Ben 2011. LE ISBN 978-0-7613-5640-0

Gr. K-3 Photographs by Eliyahu Alpern. A group of students visit an Israeli bee farm and learn about how honey is made, just in time for Rosh Hashanah. Sharp color photographs against autumn-hued backdrops show the children enjoying the day. The text, though bland, delivers copious facts about bees and honey, which may be interesting to Jewish children preparing for the holiday. “Fun Facts” are appended.

isayshehechiyanuRocklin, Joanne I Say Shehechiyanu
24 pp. Kar-Ben 2015. LE ISBN 978-1-4677-3467-7 PE ISBN 978-1-4677-3469-1 Ebook ISBN 978-1-4677-6203-8

Gr. K-3 Illustrated by Monika Filipina. A little girl says Shehechiyanu (a Jewish “blessing for beginnings”) over the course of a year, including when she gets new shoes for Rosh Hashanah; lights the Hanukkah candles; asks the Four Questions at Passover; and welcomes a friend home from summer vacation. The gentle text and warm-toned illustrations convey the importance of appreciating life’s special moments and milestones.

tashlichSchnur, Susan and Schnur-Fishman, Anna Tashlich at Turtle Rock
32 pp. Kar-Ben 2010. ISBN 978-0-7613-4509-1 PE ISBN 978-0-7613-4510-7

Gr. K-3 Illustrated by Alex Steele-Morgan. Narrator Annie and her family observe Tashlich (performed during Rosh Hashanah) by spending time in nature. They throw bread into moving water to carry away the mistakes of the past year, exchanging stories of good and bad things and discussing their wishes for the new year. The idealized dialogue is unconvincing but heartfelt. Illustrations reflect the fall season.

silverman_whenchickensstrike-246x300Silverman, Erica When the Chickens Went on Strike: A Rosh Hashanah Tale
32 pp. Dutton 2003. ISBN 0-525-46862-5

Gr. K-3 Illustrated by Matthew Trueman. Silverman adapts a tale by Sholom Aleichem, best known for his Tevye the Milkman stories. A young boy explains the custom of making Kapores — waving a chicken over one’s head to get rid of one’s sins — and recalls the year the chickens went on strike. Trueman’s comically angry chickens aptly reflect the humor of the tale. The rich, dark colors of his mixed-media paintings evoke the Old World setting.

appledaysSoffer, Allison Sarnoff Apple Days: A Rosh Hashanah Story
32 pp. Kar-Ben 2014. LE ISBN 978-1-4677-1203-3 PE ISBN 978-1-4677-1204-0 Ebook ISBN 978-1-4677-1205-7

Gr. K-3 Illustrated by Bob McMahon. Katy can’t wait for her annual mother-daughter Rosh Hashanah ritual of apple-picking and applesauce-making, but the new year brings a new baby cousin, whose early arrival alters the plans. Katy satisfyingly gets her applesauce (and readers get the recipe), though this is more a new-baby story than a Rosh Hashanah story. The overly cartoonish characters can best be described as apple-cheeked.

newyearatthepierWayland, April Halprin New Year at the Pier: A Rosh Hashanah Story
32 pp. Dial 2009. ISBN 978-0-8037-3279-7

Gr. K-3 Illustrated by Stéphane Jorisch. Izzy loves Tashlich, a Rosh Hashanah ceremony during which people apologize to those they’ve wronged then throw bread into the water to symbolize cleansing. Izzy has four apologies to make and is pleased when others apologize to him. The story’s educational aspects are handled with a light touch, a style reinforced by the loosely drawn pen-and-ink, watercolor, and gouache illustrations.

Elissa Gershowitz About Elissa Gershowitz

Elissa Gershowitz is executive editor of The Horn Book, Inc. She holds an MA from the Center for the Study of Children's Literature at Simmons College and a BA from Oberlin College.

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Comments

  1. I’m a member of a new group of 10 female picture book authors and illustrators, all traditionally published, called The Book Meshugganehs. If you want to see the list, let me know. Have a Sweet New Year!

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