A challah-baking Jewish giant, a young baseball champ and an endearing boy in a pumpkin patch are among the stars of five delightful new kids books.
One of the books is by Eric A. Kimmel and another is by David A. Adler — two of the country’s most prominent children’s book writers.
Three of the books are set during the upcoming holidays of Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Sukkot.
“Big Sam: A Rosh Hashanah Tall Tale” is a book by Kimmel for kids ages 3-8. Samson the Giant, known as “Big Sam” to his friends, sets out to make a giant, round challah in preparation for Rosh Hashanah.
He begins by digging a big hole (the Grand Canyon) to use as a mixing bowl, then he crisscrosses the country, filling his bowl with a mountain of flour, a lake of oil, thousands of eggs and more. For stirring, he whittles a giant California redwood into a spoon.
But before he can celebrate the Jewish New Year, two bald eagles caution him that he’s caused an awful lot of damage to the environment. In the spirit of the holiday, Big Sam considers his misdeeds and sets about to make things right. When he’s finally ready to tear into the huge challah, Big Sam welcomes in Rosh Hashanah with his American tall-tale pals, Paul Bunyan among them.
“Yom Kippur Shortstop ,” Adler’s newest book, opens as a young boy named Jacob makes the winning catch in the last inning of a Little League game. The book is for ages 4-8.
If Jacob’s and his teammates win the next game, they’ll be the champs — but the final game is on Yom Kippur. “Think about what you want to do,” Jacob’s father tells his son. Over the course of the next few days, Jacob ponders: Will he play in the game or spend the day at synagogue with friends and family? No spoilers here, but Jacob eventually realizes that he’s part of many teams: family, friends, his people and Little League.
This relatable, deftly told story taps into the reality facing many American Jewish families today — conflicts between Jewish holidays and the secular calendar of school, sports, recitals and other activities. The story is inspired by Jewish Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax, who chose not to start Game 1 of the 1965 World Series because it fell on Yom Kippur. In an author’s note, Adler introduces the great pitcher to his young readers.
“The Best Sukkot Pumpkin Ever” by Laya Steinberg is a book for 4- to 9-year-olds. It’s about a kid named Micah who can hardly contain his enthusiasm over going to a pumpkin patch. He and his family join others from their synagogue who are helping the farmer pick the last of the season’s pumpkins to donate to a soup kitchen. Micah, however, thinks he’s searching for a pumpkin to decorate his family’s sukkah.
Micah learns about generosity, turning his picked pumpkins over to Farmer Jared to help feed the hungry. But what about Micah’s sukkah? As the day comes to an end, Micah is unexpectedly delighted when he discovers that a pumpkin headed to the compost pile offer up seeds he can plant for next year’s “perfect” Sukkot pumpkin.
“Moti the Mitzvah Mouse ” by Vivian Newman includes lively illustrations that will make kids ages 2-5 want to read it again and again. Moti is a busy, little mouse with a big heart who lives under the sink at the Bermans’ house. When the Berman kids — and the family cat — are asleep, Moti secretly wanders the house finding ways to be helpful. Each page finds Moti doing a mitzvah: He feeds the fish, he puts away misplaced toys, he collects loose coins left around and puts them in the tzedakah box.
“It Only Takes a Minute ” by Bracha Goetz is also for ages 2-5. A young boy in an Orthodox family discovers that small acts of kindness can make a big difference — when he remembers to do them, of course. Throughout the book, the boy learns it only takes a minute to do good deeds, such as saying “thank you” or thoughtfully saying a bracha (a blessing) even when rushing for the school bus. At a soccer game, he takes a minute to appreciate the nature around him. While aimed at traditional religious families, the narrative touches a universal chord: Even young kids can, and should, make the effort to do what is right.