Purim and Passover Book List

Thank you to member Andi Davidson for compiling this list of holiday titles.

New for Purim

Cakes and Miracles, a beloved Purim story by Barbara Diamond Goldin, has been republished with engaging new illustrations by Jaime Zollars (Marshall Cavendish, 2010) The slightly shorter text tells the comforting story of a blind boy whose artistic vision inspires him to create fanciful Purim cookies that his mother sells in the village marketplace. As Hershel uses his ability to visualize the cookies in his mind to overcome his disability, he wins the gratitude of his mother, the admiration of their neighbors, and the possibility of a productive future.  For Kdg. – Gr. 3.

Problems in Purimville: A Purim Story by Karen Fisman, illustrated by Wendy Faust (JoRa Books, 2010) is a fanciful story in which two brave children find themselves in Purimville, where gremlins are making trouble, ruining hamentaschen, and spoiling Purimspiel costumes.  With the help of the hamentaschen, they scare the gremlins away and save the holiday.  This charming story combines mystery, fantasy, and adventure with colorful illustrations that will entice young readers.  For Kdg. – Gr. 3.

The Story of Esther: A Purim Tale, written by Eric A. Kimmel and illustrated by Jill Weber (Holiday House, 2011) is told in a storyteller’s style, with rich vocabulary and rising suspense.  It parallels the biblical story, with beauty pageants, murder plots, political jockeying, feasts, secrets, and the vanquishing of evil-doers all leading to a glorious victory over tyranny.  The delightful illustrations suggest humor and foreshadow the happy ending, brought about by courage and Jewish moral fiber.  For grades 1-3.


New for Passover

Are children coming to your Seder?  Delight them with these new books:

Try a little Afikoman Mambo by Rabbi Joe Black, illustrated by Linda Prater (Kar-Ben/Lerner, 2011). A catchy rhyming text in this upbeat picture book is complemented by watercolor illustrations of cheerful, multiracial children enjoying their large family’s Seder.  The rollicking story and sing-along CD will liven up Seders for all ages. It would also make a great gift for the afikoman-finders! For preschool – Kdg.

In Hoppy Passover by Linda Glaser, illustrated by Daniel Howarth (Whitman, 2011) charming bunnies Violet and Simon introduce the concepts of the holiday as they prepare to celebrate Passover with their family.  The sweet story and the cozy paintings showing a loving family sharing their holiday traditions are just right for young children who may be learning about Passover for the first time.  For preschool – Kdg.


For Cooks of All Ages

Let My People Eat!  Passover Seders Made Simple by Zell Schulman (Wiley, 1998), The New York Times Passover Cookbook (William Morrow Cookbooks, 1999), and Passover by Design: Picture-perfect Kosher by Design Recipes by Susie Fishbein (Mesorah, 2008) are just a few of the many collections of scrumptious recipes for Passover.

Kids will enjoy Matzah Meals: A Passover Cookbook for Kids by Judy Tabs and Barbara Steinberg, illustrated by Bill Hauser (Kar-Ben/Lerner, 2004),  a collection of recipes that range from the no-cooking variety for young children to more complicated ones for teens.   The Kids’ Catalog of Passover: A Worldwide Celebration of Stories, Songs, Customs, Crafts, Food, and Fun by Barbara Rush and Cherie Karo Schwartz (Jewish Publication Society, 2000) is filled with fun activities to help make Passover a joyous occasion for all ages.

Visit local synagogue and community libraries to sample the vast variety of books about Passover for adults and for children.




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Filed under Book Lists, Holidays, Passover, Purim

Interview with Linda Silver

On Sunday March 13th at 1:00 in the Hartzmark Library of Temple Tifereth Israel, please join our chaper as we celebrate the publication of Linda Silver’s new book, Best Jewish Books for Children and Teens.   Thank you to Linda for taking the time to answer a few questions.  

(AJL GCC) How did you become interested in Jewish Literature for children?

            (LINDA  SILVER) First, I believe I was born to be a reader.  In library school, I was educated to be a children’s librarian.  Children’s books are my love and they have been the focal point of my professional career.  When I became a synagogue librarian, I learned the power of books to inculcate Jewish values and Jewish identity, to express the honor of being Jewish, and to ignite the curiosity of Jewish children.

(AJL-GCC) What are the challenges of writing about Jewish Books for children?

            (LS)Writing about books requires discipline and concentration along with deep knowledge and even deeper respect for the power of literature to illuminate human experience.  Perhaps my biggest challenge when I was writing Best Jewish Books for Children and Teens was working with JPS’s superb copy editor, Janet Liss.  She questioned almost everything I wrote and made me a better author of a better book in the process.

(AJL GCC) Are there any new, up-and-coming authors that you recommend?

           (LS)  I admire the passion and authenticity of writers like Margot Rabb, Sarah Darer Littman, Erica Silverman, and the pseudonymous Eshes Chayil, who wrote Hush. 

          (AJL GCC) What can attendees expect to hear about during your presentation?

            (LS) I intend for my presentation to be a discussion of what makes a best book, what makes a Jewish book, and how librarians can use my book to enhance their own work in school and synagogue libraries.

 (AJL GCC) What is your favorite AJL memory or experience?

            (LS) Just one?  Winning AJL’s Fanny Goldstein Award for meritorious service to Judaic libraries was a great honor.

            Serving on and then chairing the Sydney Taylor Book Award committee was a wonderful experience that has influenced my subsequent career as well as forming some treasured friendships.

            Experiencing how the Greater Cleveland Chapter coalesced to pull off the 1996 AJL convention in Cleveland was a roller coaster ride.  The planning for that convention got off to a very rocky start.  Seven of us in AJL-GCC formed a planning committee, meeting once a week at Fran Friedman’s, having a sometimes trying but more often great time of it, bonding over our shared goal of creating a great Cleveland experience, and remaining friends ever since.

            Funniest memory of a person with a sardonic sense of humor: the convention Awards banquet when the Sydney Taylor Book Award winning author gave a long but entirely inaudible speech; the winning illustrator’s foreign accent made his speech incomprehensible; and the winning Sydney Taylor Manuscript Award winner chose to tell the audience all about her infertility problems. Oy!

To RSVP to Sunday’s program, please contact Ilka Gordon at:  igordon@siegalcollege.edu.


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Meet the Blogger: Barbara Krasner

Finding blogs of interest can be a challenge, especially for those new to blogging and social networking.  Introducing the chapter to blogs of interest, and the writers behind them, is the focus of this new feature of the AJL-GCC blog, Meet the Blogger.    Our first featured blog, The Whole Megillah, is written by Barbara Krasner and is a resource for writers of Jewish books for children.  An informative interview of Linda Silver about her new book, The Best Jewish Books for Children and Teens was recently posted.   Mark your calendar for February 11th when The Whole Megillah will showcase a wrap-up roundtable of the Sydney Taylor Book Award Blog Tour.   

Aimee Lurie (AL) Your blog, The Whole Megillah, is a fantastic resource for writers of Jewish books.    I love how your blog connects Jewish book writers, publishers, editors, and librarians.      How did you get interested in Jewish books and publishing? 
Barbara Krasner (BK)I suppose my interest was sparked years ago as a kid in my Hebrew School’s library. Like so many others, I fell in love with All-of-a-Kind Family as well as stories about the shtetl (Wise Men of Chelm) and biblical women. After I gave birth to my son in 1989, I was determined to find my roots and joined the Jewish Genealogical Society. That led to writing about genealogy and I became a contributing editor on Jewish genealogy to Heritage Quest magazine. I attended my first Jewish children’s writers conference in 2003. I was amazed at the line-up conference founder and organizer Anna Olswanger had put together. I brought with me the adult book I had written, Discovering Your Jewish Ancestors, and the Babaganewz editor at the time, Mark Levine (now with Behrman House), took a look at the book and gave me my first “Jewish” assignment for kids.

When I began pursuing my MFA in Writing for Children & Young Adults at Vermont College, I began reading Jewish books for children in earnest. Working with Anna and the 92nd St. Y librarian (now retired) Steve Siegel — two genealogists, I might add, like me — my interest grew.

I did not intend on building a blog about Jewish children’s books, but the idea came to me in early May last year and I wanted it to be service-oriented – sort of like an online conference. I mapped out an editorial calendar to include all constituencies involved in Jewish children’s lit. I’ve tried to get some educators involved, too, but so far that hasn’t worked well.

(AL) What is your biggest challenge blogging about Jewish books?

(BK) My biggest challenge is time. I have a full-time day job (for the moment). I started out blogging twice a week but couldn’t sustain that level of activity, so now I’m down to once a week.

(AL) Mazel tov on recently becoming a member of the Sydney Taylor Book Award committee!  What qualities do you look for when evaluating Jewish Books for young children?   Do you have a different set of standards when evaluating books for teens and middle readers?

(BK) Thank you! It is truly an honor to be a member of this prestigious committee. I primarily look for good writing, a good story, and one that’s factually correct. I am probably particularly harsh on anything historical, because that’s my specialty. For picture books, I also look for congruence between text and illustration and use of elements and strategies I learned from Brian Seltzer and Eric Rohmann (for instance, illustration that leads to the page turn). For middle grade and teen readers, I look for characterization, flow, plot — and sometimes, whether I cried.

(AL) What books do you consider to be essential choices for any Jewish library or family home collection?  

(BK) I could name a bunch of books — and I certainly have my favorites — but that would take up a lot of space on your blog! Let’s just say there should be a combination of classics, fiction and nonfiction, historical and contemporary, to give a full picture of Jewish life. 

(AL) In addition to your blog what if any other social networking tools do you use to keep informed about the Jewish publishing world?

(BK)I subscribe to the AJL and Jewish Book Council blogs as well as Erika Dreifus’s My Machberet blogs. I try to get to Tablet. I’m also a member of SCBWI and scour publications for mention of anyone with Jewish names and/or with interest in anything Judaic. As a retired marketing executive, networking has always been one of my strong suits. I think organizing both the annual New York City conference for Jewish children’s writers and the workshop/retreat at the Highlights Foundation keeps me up to date on who’s doing what with whom.

Thank you Barbara for taking time out of your busy schedule to connect with our AJL chapter.  Be sure to check out The Whole Megillah.    



Filed under Meet The Blogger, Social Networking

Book Review: Those Who Save Us by Jenna Blum

Holocaust books written from the German point of view have become a growing genre recently.    Some examples are The Book Thief  by Markus Zusak and Blooms of Darkness by Aharon Appelfeld and Jeffery M. Green.  Another novel worth reading is Those Who Save Us by Jenna Blum.  The themes of his page-turner about a mother and her daughter are shame and memory. The primary characters are Anna, the daughter of a Nazi lawyer, and her daughter Trudy.  Anna grew up in Weimar, Germany and reached adulthood just as the Nazis came to power.  Trudy came to the U.S. as a child and became a professor of German history at a university in Minnesota. 

            The story alternates between Anna’s horrendous experiences in Germany at the hands of a Nazi   official and Trudy’s efforts to learn about Germans during the Holocaust for research purposes.  Trudy’s strained relationship with her mother discouraged her from interviewing Anna.   At the same time, Trudy’s self-image was colored by her belief that her father (whom she never knew) was the commandant of a concentration camp.  Trudy’s embarrassment about her parentage and Anna’s haunting memories of this Nazi officer give this tragic story a tense and uneasy edge. 

            The book reveals that many Germans (but by no means all) disapproved of the Nazi regime and tried to resist the it.  The story uncovers some of the suffering and trauma that ordinary Germans endured during and after the Nazi era and shows that one cannot paint all Germans with the same brush.  The Holocaust changed relationships between family members, neighbors and acquaintances.  It created a new dimension that changed friends into enemies and vice versa.  Many well-meaning Germans were haunted by the millions of Jews who died in the Holocaust and also by their own inability to save them.  Those Who Save Us is recommended for academic, synagogue and public libraries.

Lee Haas


Filed under Book Reviews, Holocaust

Heather’s Picks for January

Thank you to Heather Lenson for putting together another fantastic list of websites.  

***Jewish Ideas Daily.  http://www.jewishideasdaily.com/

Each day, an original feature piece adds Jewish focuses on an issue of contemporary interest and enduring relevance.  Linda Silver’s suggestion.

 Jewish Family & Life! http://www.jewishfamily.com
A user-friendly site for teachers of young children. Regular and guest columnists create articles on health, food, travel, culture (music, movies, theater, etc), holidays, blessings and life cycle events. Avenues for entering into discussions and blogs also exist.

 Jewish TV Network. http://www.jewishtvnetwork.com./

Video clips of Jewish programs that contain music, movies, televison, education and entertainment.

 The Jewish Week. http://www.thejewishweek.com/

An online newspaper out of New York that shares the latest in Jewish culture and news.

 On1Foot.org. http://www.on1foot.org/        

An open-source online database of Jewish texts on social justice.


Filed under Heather's Picks

For The Trees

Tu b’Shevat is just around the corner.   Linda Silver has compiled a new list of books to help you celebrate.



15 Shevat 5771, Jan. 20, 2011

BEHOLD THE TREES by Sue Alexander.  Arthur A. Levine, 2001.  Ages 8-12.

Israel’s history is traced through its trees from ancient times to the present.  Stunning illustrations, some with images embedded in them, show destruction and re-birth.

DEAR TREE: A TU B’SHEVAT WISH by Doba Rivka Weber.  Hachai, 2010.  Ages 2-5.

A tree growing outside the synagogue is wished sunshine, birds, blossoms, green leaves, strong protective bark, deep roots, and all of Hashem’s other gifts by a little boy who promises to take care of it.

HONI’S CIRCLE OF TREES by Phillis Gershator.  JPS, 1995.  Gr. 3-7.

Honi is a character from the Talmud who plants carob trees, falls, asleep, and wakes many years later to discover that all the people he know are gone but trees he planted are bearing fruit.

IT’S TU B’SHEVAT by Edie Stoltz Zolkower.  Kar-Ben/Lerner, 2005.  Ages 2-4.

This simple board book follows a little boy as he grabs a shovel, digs a hole and plants a tree on Tu B’Shevat. As we watch, the boy and the tree grow older; he and his family picnic under its shade and enjoy the fruit it bears.  Illustrated in lush pastels and written in verse, the narrative flows easily.

THE KIDS’ CATALOG OF ANIMALS AND THE EARTH by Chaya Burstein.  JPS, 2006.  Ages. 8-12.

In her usually sprightly style, the author brings together facts, history, lore, legend, short stories, experiments, crafts and activities, a short encyclopedia and index to focus on Israel and Judaism.

LISTEN TO THE TREES: JEWS AND THE EARTH by Molly Cone.  UAHC Press, 1995.  Ages 8-11.

Torah says to care for the trees, the birds, beasts, and fish, and the earth – for all things are connected.  Children sampling this eclectic mixture of stories, cartoons, anecdotes, and quotations will discover the connection that exists between Jewish tradition and ecological values.

THE NEVER-ENDING GREENNESS by Neil Waldman.  Morrow, 1997.  Ages 7-10.

The narrator begins his story as a boy and ends it as an old man, telling of coming to Palestine with his parents as refugees from the Holocaust, his hopes of filling the land with trees, and the eventual fruition of the Zionist dream of making the dry places bloom.

NOAH’S TREES by Bijou LeTord.  HarperCollins, 1999.  Ages 4-7.

Noah is a steward of the earth who plants and tends trees until they grow into a huge forest. He intends to give the trees to his sons but God has other plans and obedient Noah must use his trees to make an ark. After the ark is finished and the animals have boarded, Noah carries in little green saplings from the trees he loved the most.

PEARL MOSKOWITZ’S LAST STAND by Arthur Levine.  Tambourine, 1993.  Ages 7-10.

Saving the last tree on their urban street becomes the mission of a diverse group of older ladies.  A young city bureaucrat has no chance when they overwhelm him with food, family photos, card games, and stories.

PEARL PLANTS A TREE by Jane Breskin Zalben.  Simon and Schuster, 1995.  Ages 4-7.

Pearl, a little sheep, and her grandfather plant an apple seed, nurturing it as it sprouts.  Delicate watercolor paintings of petals, leaves, and blossoms decorate the story, which is followed by a note about Tu b’Shevat and other tree planting ceremonies.

REMARKABLE PARK by Patti Argoff.  Feldheim, 2010.  Ages 3-6.

Walking through the park, a boy and girl notice all of the ways that nature sings God’s praises and realize that through nature, we can all draw closer to God.

SAMMY SPIDER’S FIRST TU B’SHEVAT by Sylvia Rouss.  Kar-Ben Copies, 2000.  Ages 3-6.

Similar to Yaffa Ganz’s A TREE FULL OF MITZVAHS, this addition to the Sammy Spider series shows a tree and the animals that benefit from it through all four seasons of the year.

SOLOMON AND THE TREES by Matt Biers-Ariel.  UAHC Press, 2001.  Gr.1-3

Drawing on legends about King Solomon and Jewish teachings about humankind’s responsibility to care for nature, this dramatically illustrated story stresses personal responsibility.


More information about all of these books and more about Tu b’Shevat can be found in the Jewish Valuesfinder, www.ajljewishvalues.org.

Click TU BISHAVAT BOOK LIST to download a copy of this list.


Filed under Book Lists, Holidays, Tu b'Shevat, Uncategorized

New Hanukkah Books

Linda Silver, AJL GCC member and editor of the Jewish Values Finder, has created a list of new Hanukkah books.  The list is perfect for collection development or for shopping for gifts.

Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel. Illus. by Amy Cartwright.  Price Stern Sloan.  Preschool.  The familiar words of the children’s Hanukkah song flow along the pages of this charmingly illustrated board book.  There’s a nice surprise waiting at the end: a pop-up scene with a spinning menorah.

Eight Winter Nights by Laura Kraus Melmed.  Illus. by Elizabeth Schlossberg.  Chronicle.  Preschool-Kdg.   Short verses tell the story of a family’s enjoyment of Hanukkah, from lighting the menorah to singing, dancing, eating, and giving tzedakah.  The pencil and pastel illustrations in shades of rust and magenta bathe the story in a warm, cozy light.   End notes give background on the holiday and its traditions.

Hanukkah. Preschool.  On the right side of each double page spread of this novelty book is an animated window of a menorah with flickering candles, gelt dropping into a bowl, a spinning dreidel, latkes being flipped, and a scroll saying “Happy Hanukkah.”  Facing each animated window is one sentence about the image in the window while on the last double page spread are some brief facts about Hanukkah.  The heavy pages, bright colors, simple text, and animated images are all appealing as a very simple introduction to some Hanukkah symbols.

The Hanukkah Trike by Michelle Edwards.  Illus. by Kathryn Mitter.  Albert Whitman.  Kdg. – Gr. 2.  A little girl named Gabi is thrilled to receive a new tricycle at the end of the first night of Hanukkah.  She names it “Hanukkah” but is daunted when she  tries to ride it and falls off.  The story of the Maccabees inspires her to persevere and her success is captured in bright paintings as well as in a rather bland text.

Happy Hanukkah Lights by Jacqueline Jules.  Illus. by Michelle Shapiro.  Kar-Ben/Lerner.  Preschool.  Rhymes, counting, and Jewish traditions are combined in this board book that shows a family’s joyful Hanukkah celebrations on all eight nights.  The illustrations are cheerful and child-like.

Jackie’s Gift: A True Story of Christmas, Hanukkah, and Jackie Robinson by Sharon Robinson.  Illus. by E. B. Lewis.  Viking.  Gr. 1-4.   When young Steve Satlow helps his neighbors, the family of the baseball great, Jackie Robinson, trim their Christmas tree, he tells them that his family has no tree of their own.  Not realizing that the Satlows are Jewish, Jackie delivers them one.    After a few awkward moments, the Satlows decide that for this year only, they’ll have both a menorah and a Christmas tree.  Jackie Robinson’s daughter wrote this handsomely illustrated story based on real events and it abounds with friendship and understanding.

The Kvetch Who Stole Hanukkah by Bill Berlin and Susan Isakoff Berlin.  Illus. by Peter J. Welling.  Pelican.  Preschool-Kdg.  There is no joy in Oyville when the local kvetch steals all of the menorahs.   But fear not: the town’s  brave children confront the old man, regale him with the story of the Macabbees and the true meaning of Hanukkah, and accomplish a miracle by opening the kvetch’s heart and mind to the joy of the holiday.  Unpolished but energetic illustrations abound in a zany story that is meant to remind children of Dr. Seuss’s Grinch.

Maccabee!  The Story of Hanukkah by Tilda Balsley.   Illus. by David Harrington.  Kar-Ben/Lerner.   Kdg. – Gr. 3.  The story of how Judah and the Maccabees fought the tyrant  Antiochus for the religious freedom of the Jews and the restoration of the Temple is retold in this animated rhyme punctuated by a repeated refrain: “Sometimes it only takes a few, / Who know what’s right, and do it, too.”  The rhythmic narrative is enhanced by bold paintings and would lend itself to readers’ theatre.



Click HANUKKAH BOOKS FROM VALUESFINDER to download a copy of this list that you can print and distribute at your library.


Filed under Book Lists, Hanukkah, Holidays