As I am always thrilled to see new Jewish titles on the market, when I was offered a chance to read three new books that were coming out from Kalaniot Books, a new imprint of Endless Mountain Publishing, I jumped at the chance. The books gently discuss Jewish customs and traditions but in ways that any child could relate to, regardless of religion. That is probably the part that stands out the most to me and makes me excited to see more. These three titles are coming out this spring.
Sarah’s Solo by Tracy Brown, is a sweet story about a young girl who is upset and disappointed when she has to miss her ballet recital because of her cousin’s wedding. As Sarah experiences the service, dressed in her blue performance tutu of course, she learns a number of Jewish traditions that make her feel good and she begins to realize what her own culture can offer. The cantor’s songs are like lullabies and some of the rituals are like dance. At the reception she refuses to join in the hora, but is pulled in by her cousin. While it isn’t her precious and delicate ballet, Sarah does see the magic in traditions. It is nice to see Jewish culture honored. in a book that has nothing to do with holidays, but rather, are just about being a Jewish kid. (Available 3/2/21, Ages 4-11)
When I first picked up Soosie: The Horse that Saved Shabbat, I wasn’t sure what the point of the story was, but it grew on me and I realized that a large part of it was actually the relationship between Jacob and his horse. Jacob is a young boy who delivers challah throughout Jerusalem. He has a very special relationship with his horse Soosie, a play on soos, the Hebrew word for horse, and you can tell that they have a way of communicating with each other as only true friends could share. When Jacob is sick and the couple who bake the bread are too old, Jacob realizes that Soosie knows the route by heart and they let her go on her own to do the deliveries. Of course, a happy ending with Soosie delivering all of the bread takes place and everyone has earned their day of rest. Not only was the relationship between human and animal special, but according to the back matter, this was actually based on a true story when a baker did send his horse to make his deliveries. Sometimes we don’t give animals the credit they deserve for their brilliance and love. With a story by Tami Lehman-Wilzig and illustrations by Menahem Halberstadt, this is one that children will enjoy. (Available 2/9/21, Ages 4-11)
One of the things that we don’t always think about is the actual making of traditions and memories. In Not So Fast Max: A Rosh Hashana Visit With Grandma, Annette Schottenfeld utilizes Rosh Hashana to make memories take center stage and illustrator Jennifer Kirkham brings them to life. When Max and Emily’s grandma visits for Rosh Hashana, she wants to start a new tradition of making caramel apples with her grandchildren (the apples represent a sweet new year). Max is in a hurry to get to the sugary treat, but Grandma is not rushing this event. Instead, they take a long drive to pick the apples themselves rather than using store-bought apples. Max gets impatient until he starts learning new things about his grandmother who lives far away in Israel. Woven into the story are details about Rosh Hashana, but the message is to make memories with those that you love. Our holidays do some of that for us, but sometimes it helps to actively build a new tradition. That way, when a loved one is no longer with us, or if we can’t celebrate with someone during a given year, the memories bring those experiences back to us and we are keep the person’s spirit with us. This is a very sweet book with a message that many will understand. (Available 3/2/21, Ages 4-11)
It can be challenging to find good books for Jewish kids. We fit into the multicultural umbrella as well. Kalaniot has 4 additional titles planned for the fall of 2021 and I can’t wait to see those either!