Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

The Melody tells a beautiful, layered story

The Melody, by Oded Burla/Illustrated by Assaf Benharroch/Translated by Ilana Kurshan, (March 2022, Kalaniot Books), $19.99, ISBN: 9781735087559

Ages 4-8

First published in Hebrew in 1996, this lovely layered tale spins dual stories: a melody seeking an audience, and the story of the Torah. A melody comes into existence and seeks someone to listen to them. Offering to share its song with the mountains and trees, stones, the river, and animals to listen, Melody is turned down time and again: the trees have their own song they share among themselves; the rocks cannot sing; the animals, all set in their own ways. But Melody discovers a mother and child in a garden together and enters the mother’s heart. The mother begins singing a lullaby to the child, and the song is Melody. An inspirational story about love, the story is also an ancient Jewish fable about God offering the Torah to the peoples of the ancient world. When the Jewish people were the only ones to accept the Torah, the song became theirs; like the mother and child, the song is passed to each generation. Digital artwork comes alive with rich color and texture, and a fluid narrative assures that readers will return to this book often. A lovely addition to collections, particularly where Jewish culture and themes are of interest.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Who are Maziks and what do they do before bedtime?

Bedtime for Maziks, by Yael Levy/Illustrated by Nabila Adani, (Apr. 2022, Kar-Ben Publishing), $17.99, ISBN: 9781728424279

Ages 4-8

This adorably rhyming story is part How Do Dinosaurs Say Good Night?, part Where the Wild Things Are. Mazik is a Yiddish word for a mischief-maker – I know a few of those! – and sometimes, a parent may lovingly refer to their little tornadoes as maziks. Bedtime for Maziks is the story of two little maziks and how they spend their day, right up to bedtime. The two are adorably monstrous, with green and purple skin, tiny fangs and claws, and unruly hair. During the day, they play along with other children, making messes in the playroom and kitchen and causing shenanigans at the local pool. Frazzled grownups nearby complete the chaos in a way that will have little readers giggling along with the maziks as they storm through their day. When it’s bedtime, though, the maziks turn into perfectly sweet little monsters, saying “good night” and getting their nighttime kisses. The playful rhyme and artwork is a celebration of childhood in all its chaos. Hallmarks of Jewish culture run throughout the story, including an copy of Jewish Folktales laying next to one mazik as she reads on the floor, a star of David hanging over one mazik’s bed, and a family sharing a Shabbat dinner (with maziks feeding pets and spilling drinks). An adorable readaloud and a lovely purchase for collections.

Posted in Uncategorized

Celebrate Rosh Hashanah with Uncle Max!

Rosh Hashanah with Uncle Max, by Varda Livney, (Aug. 2021, Kar-Ben Publishing), $7.99, ISBN: 9781728429069

Ages 0-4

The New Year is coming, and Uncle Max is going to spend it with his very excited family! Uncle Max is clearly the life of the party, with his colorful floral shirt and backwards baseball cap. Together, the family watches the sun set, lights the candles and enjoys a meal, and celebrates at the Synagogue. This adorable board book celebrates the Jewish New Year, with colorful illustrations, a cheerful family story, new Hebrew vocabulary words (and puppy translation),  and touchstones of the Jewish holiday, including dipping apples and challah in honey for a sweet new year, and blessing the wine and grape juice. The family largely presents as white, with some brown-skinned members. A joyful story to celebrate a joyful holiday, this is a great choice for holiday collections.

PJ Library has a downloadable reading guide to accompany the book, including a hands-on activity and thought-provoking questions that family can discuss.

For fun and educational Rosh Hashanah activities, see this fun paper mâché shofar on Education.com; you can also find recipes on the site, including a honey cake and noodle kugel. Visit TeachersPayTeachers for coloring sheets, including this one by CreateDecorateEducation and a greeting card from Yom Tov.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Two Books to Read This Shabbat

Kalaniot Books has been putting out some great books representing Jewish culture. I’ve been reading them, enjoying them, and sharing them with my library kids. Here are two to take home to read this Shabbat.

The Candy Man Mystery, by Rabbi Kerry Olitzky/Illustrated by Christina Mattison Ebert, (Sept. 2021, Kalaniot Books), $19.99, ISBN: 978-1-7350875-2-8

Ages 4-8

Josh and Becky enjoy going to synagogue, and Mr. Sharansky – The Candy Man – makes it even more special, handing out candy after services every week! When Mr. Sharansky isn’t at Temple Shalom this week, Josh and Becky are worried and determined to get to the bottom of this mystery. When they find Mr. Sharansky, it’s a sweet reunion in every way. A touching story of faith and multigenerational friendship, The Candy Man Mystery is a great readaloud on empathy and sharing. Josh and Becky connect with members of their synagogue community, and we learn something about everyone they come into contact with, including a child learning a prayer in American Sign Language (ASL), so he can say them with his mother, who is deaf. The congregation is invested in one another, and the Rabbi is a warm figure who respects children and adults alike. Back matter includes a word on the Shema, a glossary, and how to use ASL to sign the Shema. A lovely addition to Jewish culture and empathy-focused collections.

Visit Kalaniot’s webpage to download a free educator’s guide for The Candy Man Mystery.

 

The Rabbi and the Painter, by Shoshana Weiss/Illustrated by Jennifer Kirkham, (Sept. 2021, Kalaniot Books), $19.99, ISBN: 978-0-9988527-8-2

Ages 5-8

Based on the true story of the relationship between 16th-Century Venetian painter Tintoretto (also known as “Il Furioso”) and Rabbi Leon Modena (also known as Yahuda Araya), formed when the Rabbi was a boy who found a clay doll the painter used as a model. The Rabbi became fluent in both Italian and Hebrew, helping the Venetian government draft contracts in Hebrew as needed and eventually helping Tintoretto with one of his famous pieces, The Last Supper. The story explores the friendship between the two men while focusing on their individual talents, resulting in a story about how blending cultures can lead to great things. Back matter includes historical notes and further resources. Illustrations are engaging and focus on collaboration and creativity. A smart addition to historical picture books.

Download a free educator guide at Kalaniot’s website.

Posted in Fiction, Fiction, Intermediate, Middle Grade

A Dreidel in Time lets readers live the Hanukkah story

A Dreidel in Time: A New Spin on an Old Tale, by Marcia Berneger/Illustrated by Bernice Castro, (Sept. 2019, Kar-Ben Publishing), $8.99, ISBN: 9781541552654

Ages 8-12

This is a Hanukkah short story that puts readers right into the heart of the Hanukkah story. Devorah and Benjamin are siblings who can’t wait to open their Hanukkah presents, but are a little disappointed when they open their grandparents’ gift to both of them: an old dreidel. Their parents and grandparents have a secret, though, and encourage them to give it a spin – and when they do, they discover they’ve been transported to ancient Israel, and are in the middle of the Hanukkah story as is develops! They meet siblings Simon and Shoshana, whose parents have been arrested by the king Antiochus’s soldiers, and key figures from history, including Mattisyahu (also known as Mattathias) and his sons, Judah and Jonathan. The power of the dreidel shifts the two siblings through different moments in the Hanukkah story, from the opening flight from Antiochus to the battle of the Maccabees, destruction of the Temple, and the rejoicing when they discover that the menorah is still burning after eight days. Every spin of the dreidel not only shifts the action, but the mood: when the dreidel lands on “shin”, a “bad spin”, the siblings find themselves in the past. Landing on “nun” may mean that nothing happens, but there’s a shift in time.

Fast-paced with dialogue that educates and engages, A Dreidel in Time is perfect to give your Magic Tree House and I Survived readers. Black and white illustrations by Beatriz Castro run throughout the story.

Visit author Marcia Berneger’s website for more about her books, a Q&A, and some fun activities for kids.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Let’s get ready for Hanukkah!

You laugh, sure, but you know, Hanukkah isn’t that far off: it starts on November 28 this year. I’ve got some adorable Hanukkah stories for you here!

The Three Latkes, by Eric A. Kimmel/Illustrated by Feronia Parker-Thomas, (Oct. 2021, Kar-Ben Publishing), $16.99, ISBN: 9781541588912

Ages 3-8

The classic Gingerbread Man story (also an Eric A. Kimmel book!) gets an adorable Hanukkah retelling here as three latkes argue about who is the best latke. Gold Latke is made with golden potatoes and fried in peanut oil; Red Latke is made from red potatoes and fried in vegetable oil, and Yellow Latke is made from yellow potatoes and fried in schmaltz, so he’s got to be the best! No one is budging, so the three latkes ask the cat, Kitty, for her opinion. You can guess what happens, right? Adorable latkes sport little hats (or a headband, in Gold Latke’s case) and accessories, like Yellow Latke’s bow tie and Gold Latke’s gold medal, and have stick figure arms and legs attached to colorful latkes with cheery expressions. The dialogue takes place atop a table set for Hanukkah, with holiday details like a banner running across a fireplace, a menorah, and blue and white table settings. Kitty sports a navy blue bandana with white stars of David on it and is hilariously expressive, with sly smiles, a raised eyebrow, and a hungry tongue licking her chops communicating her intentions to the reader from the very beginning. A recipe for The Very Best Latkes at the end gives readers their choices of potatoes, oils, and toppings – just like the story! – to choose from. An adorable holiday story. Hand out latke coloring pages for readers to bring home and decorate, like this cute one from clker.com and this adorable set of pictures from Hug O’the Day.

Visit Eric Kimmel’s website for more about his books, and to watch recorded videos of him reading some of his books.

 

A Rugrats Chanukah: The Classic Illustrated Storybook, Illustrated by Kim Smith, (Sept. 2021, Quirk Books), $18.99, ISBN: 9781683692867

Ages 4-8

Can you believe the Rugrats Chanukah episode aired 25 years ago? In celebration of that first Chanukah episode of a children’s television series, Quirk’s Pop Classics released the book inspired by the special, A Rugrats Chanukah. We start out on the eighth night o Chanukah, and Grandma Minka is reading a story about the holiday to Tommy, Chuckie, Phil and Lil, and Angelica while Grandpa Boris naps. As Grandma reads the story of Chanukah, the babies imagine themselves as characters in the story, but she doesn’t get to finish – they have to head to the synagogue, where Grandpa is acting in a Chanukah play. The babies misunderstand the “meaning of Chanukah” and think that the actor opposite their grandfather is the “meany of Chanukah”, and take to the stage to help save their Grandpa; meanwhile, all Angelica wants to do is watch her holiday specials!

Whether or not readers have seen the Rugrats Chanukah special, they’ll love the story. The story wraps the Chanukah origin around a classic Rugrats episode, with all the imagination, comedic mishaps, and loving family moments. Those of us who already loved Rugrats (thanks especially to my older kids) will love seeing Tommy dressed as a brave Maccabee, and uttering a take on Tommy’s famous “baby’s gotta do” statement, “A Maccababy’s gotta do what a Maccababy’s gotta do!”; endpapers mimic the opening and closing scenes of the story, just like an episode of the show. Add this to your holiday readaloud list.

 

Hello Hanukkah!, by Susan S. Novich, (Oct. 2021 Kar-Ben Publishing), $7.99, ISBN: 9781728403441

Ages 0-3

An adorable board book that illustrates counting and colors, Hello Hanukkah! shows how young Badger celebrates the holiday every day by doing one activity as he lights the candles. He opens a box of Hanukkah candles and lights one red candle; plays with a dreidel and lights two orange candles; all the way up through the eighth night. It’s Badger has a bird friend present to help him out on every spread, and the two celebrate with a banner and full menorah at the end. A very sweet way to introduce holiday vocabulary and concepts to the littlest learners.

 

Posted in Toddler Reads

Board Books that celebrate Jewish life and community

Shabbat Shalom!, by Douglas Florian/Illustrated by Hannah Tolson, (July 2021, Candlewick Press), $7.99, ISBN: 9781536204490

Ages 0-3

An sweet, rhyming story about celebrating the Sabbath, Shabbat Shalom! shows a family heading home as the sun sets, and prepares to celebrate the Sabbath together. Wearing their best clothes and lighting the white candles, the family gathers to sing, pray, and eat dinner together. Details make this a delightful read for families, from the embroidered challah cover, with pomegranate detail and matzoh ball soup at the table, to the room the three children share, with toys strewn about the floor and art taped to the walls. A wonderful explanation about Shabbat as both family time and time for prayer.

 

We Go to Shul, by Douglas Florian/Illustrated by Hannah Tolson, (July 2021, Candlewick Press), $7.99, ISBN: 9781536204506

Ages 0-3

It’s Saturday, and this rhyming story follows a family as they head to synagogue, or shul. A family gets dressed and heads to shul, where the greet other families in their religious community, and their rabbit. Once assembled, the Torah is read, the congregation sings, and when services conclude, the family heads home to eat together. The story shows the celebration of community that attending shul brings, with families hugging and greeting one another, body language close and full of friendly affection. Boys wear kippahs and yarmulkes; some women wear head coverings and some men wear prayer shawls. A warm and inviting look into the Jewish faith.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Not So Fast, Max! is all about patience and preparing for Rosh Hashanah

Not So Fast, Max: A Rosh Hashanah Visit with Grandma, by Annette Schottenfeld/Illustrated by Jennifer Kirkham, (March 2021, Kalaniot Books), $19.99, ISBN: 9781735087511

Ages 4-8

Max and his sister Emily are so excited: their Savta (grandma) is visiting from Israel, in time for Rosh Hashanah! Max can’t wait to make caramel apples, but Savta has a fun day planned first. She takes Max and Emily apple picking, and while Emily enjoys every moment, Max is so impatient! He wants his caramel apples! Savta’s quiet patience wins out, though, and Max discovers how much fun a beautiful fall day with Savta can be. She juggles, she can play ball, and she tells stories about her safta when she was a little girl! At the end of the day, they head home and it’s time to make those apples. Looks like Max’s patience has paid off after all! A gentle Rosh Hashanah story about the new year, Not So Fast, Max teaches readers about the beauty of traditions and celebrates the bond between grandparent and grandchildren. Facts about Rosh Hashanah, a glossary of Hebrew words, and tasty recipes for Savta’s Apple Cake and Max’s Caramel Apples make up the back matter. Endpapers feature decorative fall leaves and crisp red apples, bringing to mind the Fall season and the sweetness of the holiday. A lovely story and a lovely addition to your collections.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Shine a spotlight on Sarah’s Solo

Sarah’s Solo, by Tracy Brown/Illustrated by Paula Wegman, (March 2021, Kalaniot Books), $19.99, ISBN: 9781735087504

Ages 4-7

Sarah is a little girl who’s very disappointed: she must miss her dance recital – where she was going to have a solo! – in order to attend her cousin’s wedding. Sarah dons her recital dress and squirms through the ceremony, but she can’t sit still and pout for long: as she watches the wedding guests dance the hora, she finds her toes tapping to the beat; when her cousin draws Sarah into the circle, the two dance together and Sarah finds herself getting lost in the music: she’s danced her solo after all!

One of the first new releases from Endless Mountain Publishing’s imprint, Kalaniot Books, Sarah’s Solo is a celebration of Jewish culture in one of the happiest settings: a wedding! Kids will empathize with Sarah’s plight: how many times have we made our Kiddos miss out on something they want to do because a family gathering takes precedence? Even watching the other guests dance doesn’t appeal to Sarah at first: the hora is nothing like her elegant ballet routine, after all, but sooner or later, that catchy beat and the good spirits all around her sneak in. She starts tapping her toes, and you just know she’s bopping in her seat. The fun artwork is colorful and shows a diverse crowd enjoying a joyous celebration. The author and illustrator invite readers to enjoy a moment in Jewish culture with a spread illustrating the movements that make up the hora accompanying an explanation of the dance within the context of the story; a spread showing the bride and groom hoisted up on chairs colors everyone except, the bride, groom, and Sarah bathed in shades of background reds, letting Sarah and her cousins be the stars of the spread; something that continues as Lizzy, Sarah’s cousin, invites Sarah to dance with her and allowing Sarah to perform her solo for us, the readers, as well as the wedding guests. Back matter explains Jewish wedding traditions, connecting vocabulary to moments in the story. Blue and white endpapers are a series of line drawings, filled with menorahs, Stars of David, Hands of God, flowers, cups, and musical instruments. Sarah’s Solo is a story to inspire joy.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

It’s Soosie, the Horse Who Saved Shabbat!

Soosie: The Horse That Saved Shabbat, by Tami Lehman-Wilzig/Illustrated by Menahem Halbertstadt, (March 2021, Kalaniot Books), $19.99, ISBN: 9780998852775

Ages 4-8

This sweet Shabbat tale is inspired by a true story. Bakers Ezra and Esther have a bakery in Jerusalem, where they make delicious challahs for Shabbat. Their delivery boy, Jacob, and their horse, Soosie, take the challahs around Jerusalem, where everyone awaits their delicious Shabbat delivery. But one Friday, Jacob is too sick to make the challah rounds: what are Esther and Ezra to do? Jacob has the answer: Soosie can deliver the challahs! She knows the route! Worried, but knowing the bread must be delivered so that everyone can enjoy their Sabbath. Can Soosie save the day? A gentle story of friendship, Soosie: The Horse That Saved Shabbat is set in early 20th-century Jerusalem and brings the comfort and warmth of Shabbat to readers. The familial relationships between Ezra, Esther, Jacob and Soosie are so loving; Ezra and Esther care for Jacob as they would a family member, and they worry about Soosie as more than a work animal; they fret over her safe return, and they make sure she has her day of rest, as set forth in the Bible. Sound effects, like the clip-clop of Soosie’s hooves and the clink-clang of the coins in the money box are bright red and in a larger size font, providing some nice repetition for readers. An author’s note adds context to the story and provides more background on the Shabbat celebration. The artwork is expressive and friendly, and illustrations demonstrate the diversity of Jerusalem’s people. A charming story that would be a lovely addition to Shabbat gatherings.