Archive for September, 2008

Twilight by Stephenie Meyer

 

Twilight

Twilight

OK, it’s moments before Rosh Hashanah is set to begin and I just want to get one last post in before the New Year. I’ve thought about closing with one last Rosh Hashanah book but truthfully, at some point over the next few days (if you celebrate Rosh Hashanah), you are going to be looking for something really great to read. Run, don’t walk, and pick up Twilight. In fact, you might as well also pick up New Moon because you will finish Twilight much quicker than you thought (even though it is 500 pages). Trust me. I wound up having to take an emergency late night trip to Target while on a business trip. Not pretty.

 

I have found a new friend. Actually, a new set of friends — some human, most not — all imaginary. In the past week, I’ve read almost 1,500 pages of this series meant for teens while still going to work, playing with my kids and hanging out with my husband. I will admit that I am an avid YA reader but this is a whole different world for me. This book put me right back in the land of first love, in the world where “love” consumed your every thought, where the object of your affection was more intoxicating than anything else. I grant you, it might not be a place you want to return to. But if you don’t remember what it feels like, read this book. (Let me just be clear, I’m not talking about real love, I’m talking about young love.)

 

New Moon

New Moon

By the way, I’m rationalizing this posting because it is a book written for children (or teens). However, there is probably not a teenager out there who hasn’t read it or at least heard of it. This posting is for you — who needs a good book to sink into.

 

OK, I should mention it also has vampires in it but ignore that. It’s not really about that.

All the best to you all and I’ll be back on Thursday!

Leave a Comment

Rosh Hashanah Books for Little Kids

To my mind, Rosh Hashanah books for young children are at best OK and at worst, very annoying. For little kids, you don’t tend to get a great story, you get object identification and something to chew on. That said, there are some better than others and here are my favorites (in order of age appropriateness).

Happy Birthday, World

Happy Birthday, World

Happy Birthday World by Latifa Berry Kropf

Happy Birthday, World is a sweet board book that compares Rosh Hashanah, the birthday of the world, to a child’s birthday. “On your birthday, you eat a delicious birthday cake. / On this birthday, we eat crisp apples dipped in honey.” I’m not crazy about the illustrations, but that’s just a taste issue. Basically, it’s a good one for toddlers (though I feel like few of them have a real sense of what a birthday is…).

Apples and Honey

Apples and Honey

Apples and Honey by Joan Holub

If your child is ready for something a little bit more sophisticated than a board book, Apples and Honey is actually a nice choice. A lift-the-flap book, this one has a bit of a plot as a family prepares for Rosh Hashanah. The illustrations are lovely, but the book is stapled together, giving it that lovely supermarket feel. I’m a big fan, but I do wish they would have spent the extra pennies to get a real binding.

It's Shofar Time!

It's Shofar Time!

It’s Shofar Time! by Latifa Berry Kropf

It’s Shofar Time! is part of a well-known series of photo essay books for little kids around the Jewish holidays. They all take place at a lovely looking Jewish preschool in Charlottesville, VA, as a group of multi-ethnic, multi-cultural children celebrate the Jewish holidays. Surprisingly, it’s actually a lovely series and this book — centered around Rosh Hashanah is no exception. In my experience, children love looking at photos of other children and in addition to having age-appropriate text, it’s also a great advertisement for Jewish preschool.

Sammy Spider’s First Rosh Hashanah by Sylvia Rouss

Sammy Spider's First Rosh Hashanah

Sammy Spider's First Rosh Hashanah

And finally, it would be difficult to have a list of holiday books for little children without a mention of Sammy Spider. Sammy, for those who haven’t had the “pleasure” of meeting him, is a curious little spider who lives with his mother in the Shapiro household. Sammy watches the Shapiros celebrate their holidays and constantly wants to join in. His mother like to remind him (over and over again): “Silly little Sammy. Spiders don’t … . Spider’s spin webs.” So, not great for teaching your child they can do anything they want, but the books are a good model of Jewish families living Jewishly (but not too Jewishly). In this “adventure,” Sammy learns all about Rosh Hashanah but not before he accidentally gets stuck in the sticky honey. Parents will likely find Sammy tiresome pretty quickly but unfortunately, kids really seem to like him. He’s kind of like the Jewish Curious George.

Comments (1)

The World’s Birthday by Barbara Diamond Goldin

I’m trying hard to stick with books that are still in print, to make it easier on everyone. But every so often, I’m going to need to go back to some lovely books that you are going to need to hunt around a little bit for.

The World's Birthday

The World's Birthday

It would be hard to talk about Rosh Hashanah books without mentioning The World’s Birthday by Barbara Diamond Goldin. Goldin is one of the top Jewish children’s book authors with so many wonderful folktales and stories to her credit. They are all gems and you will hear about many of them on this site. The World’s Birthday is a great story for 4 and 5 year old children.  Daniel, the hero of this story (and of another Barbara Diamond Goldin book Night Lights) thinks that if Rosh Hashanah is the birthday of the world, why not throw a birthday party? And while his older sister Naomi (who also features prominently in Night Lights) thinks it’s a dumb idea, he perseveres and creates a lovey new Rosh Hashanah tradition.

It’s a nice, quiet story, perfect for children who love birthday parties. It may be hard to find, but it’s worth it once you do.

Leave a Comment

When the Chickens Went on Strike by Erica Silverman

When the Chickens Went on Strike by Erica Silverman is stunning — which really counts for a lot for me because I think that everyone judges a book by its cover. Even more so with children’s books: everyone judges a picture book by its illustrations.

When the Chickens Went on Strike

But I will offer, that it is on a bit of an odd topic. Adapted from a Sholom Aleichem story, Chickensis about a boy who has a really hard time being good. He wants to be good, he really does. But somehow between wanting and doing is a big leap — the same problem that many children I know have. So, what’s odd about that? Well, then comes the custom of kapores — the ritual that few non-Ultra Orthodox Jews do anymore — where a person swings a chicken over their head as a way of atoning for their sins. It’s an odd custom and the chickens don’t want to have any part of it (naturally). In the process of trying to convince them, this boy (and the reader) learn a good lesson about how to be a better person (I’ll give you a hint, it’s not related to whether or not you swing a chicken over your head).

It’s definitely a fun book, even if your family doesn’t practice the custom of Kapores. Everyone needs a little help being a better person…

Leave a Comment

Engineer Ari and the Rosh Hashanah Ride by Deborah Bodin Cohen

This year brings a new Rosh Hashanah story that will hit the mark with many young children, particularly those who have a fascination with train.

Engineer Ari
Engineer Ari

Engineer Ari and the Rosh Hashanah Ride by Deborah Bodin Cohen takes place against the backdrop of the first train ride across Israel — from Jaffa to Jerusalem — right before Rosh Hashanah. Ari is delighted to be chosen to be at the helm of this first trip across the country and doesn’t seem to notice/ care that his best friends, who were not chosen, are feeling upset. But as he travels across the country and picks up supplies for Rosh Hashanah (shofarot, round challahs, apples, honey), everything reminds him of his two friends and their sadness.

By the time Ari gets to Jerusalem, he can barely enjoy the festivities because he knows that he has to go back and say he’s sorry to his friends — for boasting and not being sensitive to their feelings. And yes, the play on words is made (a little too deliberately for my taste): Ari says he has to do teshuva (repentance), to turn himself around (the literal meeting of teshuva). While the book ends before he reaches his friends, it provides a great jumping off point to discuss how one says they are sorry. 

It’s a solid new book for Rosh Hashanah, filled with beautiful illustrations, an important message and, best of all, a train!

Leave a Comment

Even Higher by Richard Ungar

This week is going to be all Rosh Hashanah all the time, for fairly obvious reasons.

One of my favorite Rosh Hashanah books is Even Higher by Richard Ungar. I have to admit, the illustrations do not thrill me. It’s a question of taste — it’s not that they are bad, I’m just not into the Chagall colors.

Even Higher

Even Higher

But the story is lovely. Based on a story by the great I.L. Peretz, It’s about a couple of boys who see the rabbi disappear the day before Rosh Hashanah every year. This year, they’ve decided that one of the boys should follow him to prove that he goes up to heaven to talk with God. When Reuven sees him disguise himself as a woodcutter and bring wood for a bedridden widow, he realizes that one’s actions can actually bring you “even higher” than heaven.

Even Higheris a wonderful story for Rosh Hashanah about the power of human actions and can be a fantastic conversation starter about the value of Tzedakah (charity). Rarely do we get such a wonderful portrait of charity being given without hope of recognition.

Comments (1)

Mendel’s Accordion by Heidi Smith Hyde

I feel badly that I didn’t get a book in before the weekend so I wanted to choose a really good book today to make up for it. After this past Shabbat, Mendel’s Accordion is my natural choice.

This book fits my requirements for a great book for a number of reasons:

First, it’s beautiful. The illustrations are light and delicate and there’s lots to see on every page.

Mendel's Accordion

Mendel's Accordion

Second, it’s a lovely story. The narrative centers around a man named Mendel who loves to play his accordion in a place called Melnitze (which is ironically less than 50 miles from the place where my grandparents all hailed from). When things start getting really tough in the village (and this is left deliberately vague — no pogroms or soldiers are mentioned or seen), he decides to come to America. He makes the long journey with others and comes to New York eventually. At every turn in the story, he finds people to play with accordion alongside. The book ends with his great-grandson finding his accordion and deciding to learn to play as well. I think it does a great job of capturing all these familiar tropes (the coming to America, the making it in America, the new generations) in an accessible way for young readers.

And third of all, there’s something that’s just plain fun about it. My 5 year old and I love talking about the different characters from the Old Country — Shmelke is our favorite and has become a frequent special imaginary guest at our Shabbat table (like this past Shabbat when Shmelke actually brought Mendel with him). We’ve been reading this book for probably 1.5 years and he still loves saying “Shmelke.” We’ve also spent a long time talking about the instruments that all the players play (if I were a better mom/educator, I would have also introduced him to the sounds of Klezmer music so he can have that association). 

Basically, it’s just a really nice read. And at each age, he’s finding more and more to like in the story. Maybe next year, we can use the book as a jumping off point to discuss how people came to America or to talk about his grandparents. And maybe I’ll pick up a Klezmer CD and he’ll be able to put together the scenes of the Klezmer band with the actual music. There’s lots of time for this book — I know we’ll keep reading it and re-reading it, which is one of the best things I can say about a book.

Leave a Comment

Older Posts »