Jewish American Heritage Month 2020

May is Jewish American Heritage Month -- and Happy Lag Ba'Omer today! The Boston Public Library's list from last year is a good place to start exploring the (varied) Jewish experience in the U.S. Check out The Knish War on Rivington Street for a glimpse into the early-twentieth-century Lower East Side (and two knish recipes); or All Three Stooges for a contemporary middle-grade story centered around Hebrew school; or No Truth Without Ruth for a biography of national treasure Ruth Bader Ginsburg; or The Length of a String for two stories, set in different times, of Jews living between cultures.

Also see the past couple of years’ Sydney Taylor Book Award lists (as a 2019–2020 committee member, I’m partial); many of the winners/honors/notables (including some mentioned above) celebrate American Jews, from picture books like A Moon for Moe and Mo and A Scarf for Keiko to YA novels like You’ll Miss Me When I’m Gone, Sick Kids in Love, and In the Neighborhood of True. Gittel’s Journey: An Ellis Island Story will likely resonate with many Jewish Americans whose families have immigrant pasts, and Irving Berlin, a Jewish immigrant from Russia who eventually wrote “God Bless America,” pops up in not one but two picture-book biographies on the 2019 Notable list. Though most of 2020 Middle Grade winner White Bird: A Wonder Story takes place in France during WWII, its frame story shows a common experience among American Jews: that of hearing Holocaust memories from our ancestors. 2020 Picture Book  winner The Book Rescuer celebrates, as its subtitle puts it, How a Mensch from Massachusetts Saved Yiddish Literature for Generations to Come. Sports fans may want to check out Games of Deception: The True Story of the First U.S. Olympic Basketball Team at the 1936 Olympics in Hitler’s Germany, and Dissenter on the Bench: Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Life and Work is a great choice for middle- and high school RBG fans.

And of course, there’s 2019's Younger Readers winner All-of-a-Kind Family Hanukkah — check out Paul O. Zelinsky’s meticulously researched illustrations of Emily’s Jenkins’s story, which is equally so. (Don’t miss the original All-of-a-Kind Family novels by Sydney Taylor, either! And take our quiz to find out: which sibling are you?)

Also see the Love Your Neighbor lists from the Association of Jewish Libraries, and Heidi Rabinowitz’s Diverse Jewish Kidlit bibliography, for more titles celebrating and shedding light on Jewish heritage here and around the world. Don't miss Heidi's March/April Horn Book Magazine article, co-written with Sadaf Siddiqe, "We Need Diverse Jewish and Muslim Books."

Shoshana Flax
Shoshana Flax

Shoshana Flax, assistant editor of The Horn Book Magazine, is a former bookseller and holds an MFA in Writing for Children from Simmons University. She is a member of the Sydney Taylor Book Award committee.

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Emily Schneider

Thank you for this post and for the wonderful recommendations. I would like to point out that there were actually three picture book biographies of both Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Irving Berlin released at around the same time. They really complement one another, and it would be fun to ask kids to compare them. I have just read that, sadly, Judith Kerr has died. She was the acclaimed Jewish author of "When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit," probably one of the best-known books about the Holocaust era for younger readers.

Posted : May 23, 2019 04:33


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