Posts Tagged sammy spider

Sukkot Books

I’m not sure what I’ll write about when these Jewish holidays are over. I feel like every other entry is holiday related. Then again, I also feel like every other day is a holiday …

Anyway, back to books. So, next up is Sukkot and we’re just going to go with a roundup on this one. Here’s what I see as the best books out there on the ole Festival of Booths.

Best for children ages 1-2:

Tamar’s Sukkah by Ellie Gellman

Tamar's Sukkah

Tamar

OK, the pictures are a little corny and old fashioned which gets points deducted in my book, but the story is lovey. Tamar is building her sukkah and each page, there’s something she needs help with, so she finds another child to help. But even when that task is complete, Tamar says that: “Something’s still missing.” It turns out that only when there are friends to share the sukkah is the sukkah really finished.

Best for children ages 2-3:

It’s Sukkah TIme by Latifa Berry Kropf & Sammy Spider’s First Sukkot by Sylvia Rouss

Sammy Spider's First Sukkot

Sammy Spider's First Sukkot

It's Sukkah Time!

It's Sukkah Time!

I’m giving this age group a tie. I’ve talked about both of the series before so I won’t dwell on them here. Younger kids seem to really like the “It’s [insert holiday name] Time!” stories which take place in a lovely looking Jewish preschool. In this book, the kids learn about sukkot, decorate the sukkah and create little miniature sukkahs. In terms of Sammy Spider, kids seem to love him, though adults grow weary of him (and his mother’s penchant for dwelling on all things spiders can’t do…). But, Sammy does learn all about Sukkot in the latest installment of Sammy’s adventures in the Shapiro house.

Best for kids ages 3-5:

Leo & Blossom’s Sukkah by Jane Breskin Zalben & Hillel Builds a House by Shoshana Lepon

Leo & Blossom's Sukkah

Leo & Blossom

So here, it’s not so much a tie as a split based on what kind of family you live in. Leo & Blossom’s Sukkah (which is sadly out of print) is great for children in a variety of different homes. Zalben, who has created two main series of stories about little animals that live in Jewish homes and celebrate Jewish holidays, here tells a lovely Sukkot story. The pictures are very small but it’s a nice story and there are many more where that one came from. The story is also anthologized in Beni’s Family Treasury where you’ll find many more stories like it.

Hillel Builds a House

Hillel Builds a House

Hillel Builds a House is also a lovely story (with very out of date illustrations) but it’s better for families that actively celebrate Jewish holidays on a regular basis (which does not just mean Orthodox folks). Hillel loves to build houses and wants to always have his own little house. Every holiday, starting with Hanukkah, he tries to have his own little house (at Hanukkah he builds it in the basement but he can’t light his candles in it; on Purim he makes a house costume but it gets rained on; etc. etc.). Finally, it’s Sukkot which is a perfect holiday for building a house!

Best for children ages 5-7:

Night Lights by Barbara Diamond Goldin

Night Lights
Night Lights

Night Lights is a great story by Barbara Diamond Goldin about sleeping outside in a Sukkah. While last year, Daniel (who you may remember from the Rosh Hashanah story: The World’s Birthday) was OK sleeping outside because he grandfather was there, this year he is scared to do it. Not making things easier, his big sister Naomi keeps telling him that he won’t be able to do it because he’ll be too scared. In the end, even Naomi is scared and they realize that being together, they can make it through the night. I like this story a lot, but I am a little disappointed in the re-illustration that was done when the book was re-released. So, on the one hand, I fully support buying the edition in print because then the money actually goes to the author, but on the other hand, the artwork in the original edition (by Louise August) is exceptional and I would advocate buying that edition, even though it’s used. The one other note I would make is that the new edition (published by UAHC Press/ URJ) is less scary than the old edition because the illustrations are less intense. So, decide on your own — or get both and compare!

Best for children  ages 6-9:

The Mysterious Guests by Eric Kimmel

The Mysterious Guests

The Mysterious Guests

The Mysterious Guests is a gorgeous new book that is new this year. According to the prologue:

It is said that our forefathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, return to Earth for the harvest festival of Sukkot. Disguised as weary travelers, they appear at the sukkah, asking to share the holiday meal. If they are welcomed as honored guests, they leave a blessing. If not, they teach a lesson that is not soon forgotten.

The Mysterious Guests shows us how some people who have much to give, give so grudgingly, while those with little to give, give all they can. It’s a lovely lesson about tzedakah and a model of how to greet guests.

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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.

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