Here are some books worth considering. Give these for Chanukah or anytime at all.
Pre-k & up
“Gittel’s Journey: An Ellis Island Story”
By Lesléa Newman, illustrated by Amy June Bates.
This Sydney Taylor Honor Award picture book is inspired by true events. Illness prevents Gittel’s mom from traveling to America with her. She’s given her cousin’s address in New York, but once she reaches Ellis Island, she discovers the ink is no longer legible. This is a beautiful illustrated story about reuniting family.
“I Have a Jewish Name”
By Rochel Vorst, illustrated by Dena Ackerman.
In this simple and beautifully written picture book, Rochel Vorst explains how Jewish children receive their Jewish names. There’s even a nametag for kids to add their own. The rhyming will hold the attention of little ones and the illustrations reflect our diverse world. This is an excellent addition for bedtime stories, allowing parents to expand the story and share why they gave their child a particular name.
“The Book Rescuer: How a Mensch from Massachusetts Saved Yiddish Literature for Generations to Come”
By Sue Macy, illustrated by Stacy Innerst.
In basements, closets, and old suitcases, Yiddish books have been found and rescued. This gorgeously illustrated story tells the tale of how one person’s dream of preserving our Jewish heritage can make a difference for generations to come.
“Fish Out of Water”
By Joanne Levy.
Twelve-year-old Fishel needs to figure out what he’s going to do for his bar mitzvah project. But what he chooses isn’t an expected activity for boys: knitting socks to give to people in need. This book may very well move readers to tears as gender roles are explored. At only 16,000 words, it’s perfect for reluctant readers
“Ceiling Made of Eggshells”
By Gail Carlson Levine.
From the author who wrote the Newbery Honor novel, “Ella Enchanted,” comes a new historical tale about a brave Jewish girl who does everything she can to help other Jews during the expulsion in Spain. Carlson Levine takes readers on an incredible journey while sharing history few younger readers know much about.
“Layla’s Vistaville Summer”
… and the sequel out this December, “Layla’s Sugarland Winter,” by Faygie Holt.
These engaging books will sure please kids from reluctant readers to “read–aholics.” Written in diary format, middle schoolers will travel with Layla, build new friendships with cousins she meets for the first time, and search for hidden treasure. These books are a treasure!
By Evan Wolkenstein.
Set in Wisconsin, this powerful page-turner will have readers on the edge of their seats, wanting to know what will happen to Will, a soon-to-be bar mitzvah boy dealing with a genetic disease. As Will copes, his rabbi introduces him to a hospitalized boy who changes Will’s perceptions of himself and others.
“Six-Day Hero” and the new release, “Beni’s War”
By Tammar Stein.
Both these highly acclaimed books share the perspective of a middle grader’s experiences coping with Israel at war. Done in a sensitive, caring manner, these well-researched books will help students understand Israel’s history. These are great books for parent-child discussion.
“Dissenter on the Bench”
By Victoria Ortiz.
Highlighting Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Jewish identity and experiences with Judaism, readers will be inspired by her landmark court cases and appreciate her for her positive impact on this world.
“What the Night Sings”
By Vesper Stamper.
This National Book Award finalist novel will captivate readers with the extraordinary illustrations and breathtaking tale as young Gerta recounts her experiences during the Holocaust.