Jewish Life

Six new children’s books for the Jewish New Year

By Penny Schwartz

(JTA) – Six engaging and fun reads for kids of all ages seize the spirit of the Jewish holidays and the excitement and anticipation of beginning anew, and celebrating the warmth and joy of Jewish traditions with family and friends.

Once Upon an Apple Cake: A Rosh Hashanah Story
Elana Rubinstein; illustrated by Jennifer Naalchigar
ages 7-10

Saralee is an endearing 10-year-old girl whose nose possesses the unusual power to sniff out scents and flavors. As Rosh Hashanah approaches, Saralee, whose family owns a restaurant, is excited to bake her zayde’s popular apple cake with a mystery ingredient. When zayde bumps his head, he temporarily forgets the secret to the cake. Will Saralee rise to the occasion, bake the perfect cakes and win a contest judged by a famous food critic? The recipe is included at the end of the book.

Whale of a Tale
Eric A. Kimmel;
illustrations by Ivica Stevanovic
ages 6-10

The adventure begins when twins Scarlet and Sam offer to take their Grandma Mina’s centuries-old carpet to be cleaned at the local rug shop. Engrossed in conversation with their mysterious driver, Jonah, they forget to take the prized carpet with its aura of magic that their Iran-born grandmother brought with her as she fled tyranny in her country.  Suddenly, they find themselves in ancient Israel amid carpet sellers in the shouk .They stow away on a ship, where they reunite with Jonah. As in to the biblical tale, the kids and Jonah go overboard and are swallowed up in the slimy belly of a big fish. The clever kids prod the reluctant Jonah to be faithful to God and justice.

Shanah Tovah, Grover!
Joni Kibort Sussman;
illustrated by Tom Leigh
ages 1-4

Join Grover, Big Bird and other beloved Sesame Street characters as they welcome Rosh Hashanah with honey and apples, a shofar, and a festive meal with songs and blessings. Joni Sussman’s simple verse is perfect for reading aloud to little ones and for preschoolers eager to read on their own.

Creation Colors
Ann D. Koffsky
ages 2-5

In this illustrated picture book of papercut art, young kids encounter the biblical story of Creation through the prism of color: from separating light from dark to the bubbling blues of the water, to the yellows of the sun, and the stripes and spots of the animals. This lyrically told story is perfect for Simchat Torah, the joyful festival at the end of the High Holidays.

Jackie and Jesse and Joni and Jae
Chris Barash;
illustrations by Christine Battuz
Apples & Honey Press; ages 3-8

On a crisp fall day, four good friends stroll hand in hand toward the river clutching small bags of sliced bread. The group is following their rabbi and neighbors to tashlich, the Rosh Hashanah custom of tossing bread crumbs into water to symbolically cast away mistakes of the past year – like when Jae shared Jackie’s secret. Told in lovely rhyming verse, the book serves as a reminder of the power of asking for and extending forgiveness.

The Elephant in the Sukkah
Sherri Mandell;
illustrated by Ivana Kuman
ages 3-8

Nothing will get between a young boy named Ori and Henry, a lively elephant who once was a circus star but now is sent to a farm for old elephants where no one sings or has fun. When Henry wanders out one evening, he is enchanted by the joyful music and singing he hears from the Brenner’s family sukkah. After a few nights, he even learns the Hebrew words. Young Ori hears Henry singing along outside the sukkah and is determined to find a way to bring the animal inside to fulfill the mitzvah of welcoming guests. Readers discover that the idea of elephants in a sukkah crossed the legalistic minds of the Talmud’s rabbis. 

Shabbat: A Primer
The improbable story of Connecticut’s Jewish farming families

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