For the New Year, a new crop of children’s booksby penny schwartz, jta
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Shofars, apples and honey, make room for pomegranates, couscous and pumpkins. The new crop of children’s books for the High Holy Days opens a world beyond the beloved traditional symbols of the New Year. The savory, engaging reads presented here will take families from the kitchen to the bedroom to the sukkah.
Award-winning author Jacqueline Jules’ “What a Way to Start a New Year!” is a lighthearted and authentic story for Rosh Hashanah that reflects the diversity of today’s Jewish families and the hustle and bustle of daily life.
In the opening pages, a perky girl is eating a slice of pizza in her family’s new home, which is filled with unpacked boxes. Her family, including two younger brothers, has just moved to a new town. While her dad isn’t Jewish, he loves celebrating the High Holy Days. But how will they observe the New Year, our storyteller wonders with some concern.
When they venture back to their old neighborhood to share a traditional Rosh Hashanah meal with their friends, one plan after another goes awry. “What a way to start a new year!” they sigh after each mishap.
Things begin to look up when one of dad’s co-workers invites them to synagogue services. The prayers and songs are familiar, but the kids still feel out of place because they don’t recognize anyone.
Finally they are welcomed to share Rosh Hashanah dinner with new friends. “What a wonderful way to start a new year!” the girl exclaims.
Judy Stead’s brightly colored, cartoon-like illustrations are a lively accompaniment to the story.
An author’s note reminds parents that while starting in a new home or school can be difficult, it’s made easier by generous hosts. She explains the mitzvah of hachnasat orchim, welcoming guests.
In Sylvia A. and Shannan Rouss’ “A Watermelon in the Sukkah,” decorating a Jewish school’s sukkah becomes inventive when Michael wants to hang his favorite fruit, a watermelon, from the roof. All the kids’ usual ideas — think duct tape and string — fall flat. Teamwork and Michael’s creative thinking save the day. A brief author’s note explains the holiday.
Ann Iosa’s fall-toned illustrations of gold, green and purple convey the children’s excitement and disappointment with lively action that will entertain young kids.
A delightful chapter book that was published earlier this year, “Sam and Charlie (and Sam Too!)” is a story of friendship among new neighbors. Author Leslie Kimmelman tells five stories about the daily ups and downs among two Jewish friends and a younger sibling. The format and Kimmelman’s light and endearing touch evokes the classic “George and Martha” series by James Marshall, or the beloved “Frog and Toad” series by Arnold Lobel.
The last story of the set, titled “I’m Sorry Day,” will have the kids giggling along with Sam and Charlie even as it opens a conversation on the tough subject of apologies and forgiveness. Children of all faiths and backgrounds will have fun with these memorable stories and learn about the meaning of Yom Kippur, the holiday of forgiveness.
In Vivian Newman’s “Tikkun Olam Ted,” a small boy named Ted spends the days from Sunday to Friday doing some big things to make the world a kinder, better place. On Shabbat he rests, dreaming of tikkun olam, the repair of the world.
“Tikkun Olam Ted” is a lively toddler book with colorful illustrations that will engage younger kids. Older children may be inspired by simple, fun ways to help around the house or out in the world.
“What a Way to Start a New Year! A Rosh Hashanah Story” by Jacqueline Jules, illustrated by Judy Stead (Kar-Ben, $16.95 hardcover, $7.95 paperback, ages 3-8)
“A Watermelon in the Sukkah” by Sylvia A. Rouss and Shannan Rouss, illustrated by Ann Iosa
(Kar-Ben, $17.95 hardcover, $7.95 paper, ages 3-8)
“Sam and Charlie (and Sam Too!)” by Leslie Kimmelman, illustrated by Stefano Tambellini
(Albert Whitman, $13.99, also available on Kindle, ages 6 to 8)
“Tikkun Olam Ted” by Vivian Newman, illustrated by Steve Mack (Kar-Ben, $5.95 board book, also available as eBook, ages 1-4)
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