Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads, Uncategorized

Discover Israel with this rhyming tour

My Israel and Me, by Alice Blumenthal McGinty/Illustrated by Rotem Teplow, (Sept. 2021, Kalaniot Books), $19.99, ISBN: 978-1-7350875-3-5

Ages 3-8

Told in verse through the eyes of the diverse groups of people living in and visiting Israel, My Israel is a celebration of both the ancient and modern-day country.  Verse shares space with factual information about areas like The Dead Sea, the modern city and Israel’s status as a “Start-Up Nation”, kibbutzes, Biblical history, and more. Alice Blumenthal McGinty celebrates Jewish and Muslim culture and family life, and Rotem Teplow’s colorful artwork takes readers on a journey across the small country with a big history. Endpapers show a plethora of objects to take readers on a visual journey, like camels, kites, olive leaves, and cats, all of whom are waiting to be discovered in the pages.

To extend a lesson on Israel, visit TeachersPayTeachers, where you can find a map of ancient Israel from Taylor Beck; an Israel Activities Pack from Marshal Jewish Learning Center, and more! Download a free educator kit from Kalaniot’s website.

Author Alice Blumenthal McGinty is an award-winning author. You can find educator guides on her website, along with more information on her books, and information about school visits. Visit illustrator Rotem Teplow’s website for more of her artwork.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

A Snake, a Flood, a Hidden Baby: Bible Stories for Children

A Snake, a Flood, a Hidden Baby: Bible Stories for Children, by Meir Shalev/Illustrated by Emanuele Luzzati, Translation by Ilana Kurshan, (Sept. 2021, Kalaniot Books), $21.99, ISBN: 978-0-9988527-9-9

Ages 3-8

Originally published in Hebrew in 1994, this English translation of six Bible stories from the Hebrew Bible are delightfully translated into English for younger listeners and readers. Featuring the stories of The Tree of Knowledge, Noah’s Ark, The Tower of Babel, Abraham and Sarah, Joseph and His Brothers, and Moses in the River, the stories are told with a sense of humor and personality. Colorful illustrations bring the stories to life with vibrant spreads, one-page illustrations, and pop-ups throughout the text. Key phrases an quotes throughout each story are emphasized in size and colorful font, making this an accessible, wonderful book of stories to share.

Visit Kalaniot’s book detail page for A Snake, a Flood, a Hidden Baby to download a free educator’s guide.

Posted in picture books

More Hanukkah books to brighten your celebrations!

I’ve got two modern classics to get into today, both by authors I’m a big fan of. Let’s jump in!

The Story of Hanukkah, by David A. Adler/Illustrated by Jill Weber, (June 2012, Holiday House), $6.99, ISBN: 9780823425471

Ages 5-8

My biography shelves are loaded with books by David A. Adler. He does phenomenal nonfiction writing for kids, and his Story of Hanukkah is a wonderfully comprehensive history of the holiday helped me understand more about the Hanukkah celebration. Adler’s factual text is enhanced by Jill Weber’s acrylic illustrations, portraying life in Biblical Judea, the Greek push to dominate, and Mattathias’ refusal to worship the Greek gods, along with his flight into the hills and subsequent rebellion against the Greeks. The bright, primary color artwork shows an epic battle between the Greek soldiers and the Maccabees, with a spreads featuring charging horsemen and war elephants, and hand-to-hand combat (the combatants look more knocked silly than anything else, for more delicate readers), and there are heart-warming modern family moments to conclude the story, as today’s families celebrate, Adler writes, “one of the first fights for religious freedom”. A tasty latke recipe and instructions on how to play the dreidel game round out the back matter, and blue endpapers with Hanukkah symbols – dreidels, scrolls, menorahs, gelt, and more – make this a lovely addition to your nonfiction holiday collections, and a great gift for your younger celebrants.


Zigazak! A Magical Hanukkah Night, by Eric A. Kimmel/Illustrated by Jon Goodell, (Sept. 2001, Doubleday Books for Young Readers), $16.99, ISBN: 978-0385326520

Ages 4-8

A hilarious tale of Hanukkah magic, Zigazak! takes place on the first night of Hanukkah, in the Belarus town of Brisk. Two little devils – they’re more tricksters than flat-out evil – decide to have some fun by starting some trouble around the town. They make dreidels sprout limbs and dance, they make latkes fly, they even make candles explode! The people are up in arms! What can they do? They ask the rabbi for help, and help he does: he finds the fun in the devils’ mischief, and tricks them at their own game. When he offers to free the devils and turn them into spirits of light, they push back: they like being bad! But try as they might, the rabbi will not be intimidated, and manages to convince them to turn themselves into cockroaches. One crunch later, the town of Brisk is back to celebrating Hanukkah, devil-free.

Zigazak! is a story that’s just made for out-loud reading, with the repeated magic titular phrase providing the perfect opportunity for getting the kids involved. Expect squeals and shrieks, because cockroaches are just awful. Eric A. Kimmel (whose similar tale of Hanukkah mischief, Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins, received a Caldecott Honor in 1990) weaves a masterful tale of mischief and morality, with delightfully goofy goblins illustrated by Jon Goodell. Goodell’s realistic artwork gives readers expressive characters reacting in horror as Hanukkah icons come to life, and a wise rabbi who exudes calm and wisdom. The most important part of Zigazak? Eric A. Kimmel’s belief, via the rabbi of Brisk: “…if we look hard enough, we can find the good in all living creatures”.

If you’ve never enjoyed this tale before, run to your holds list and add it. You’ll be happy you did.