Monday, November 19, 2018

Light the Menorah! A Hanukkah Handbook

At the 2018 Association of Jewish Libraries conference, I bumped into author Jacqueline Jules. She's been on the podcast before in 2014 to talk about Never Say a Mean Word Again. Her new picture book is Light the Menorah: A Hanukkah Handbook, which offers meditations for candle lighting. We grabbed a quick interview after lunch in the busy dining hall, so you will have a "you are there" experience listening to our conversation about this wonderful new holiday book!

Speaking of Jewish rituals like lighting the menorah, the Association of Jewish Libraries has published another list in the Love Your Neighbor series of book lists. List #2 is about Synagogues, Clergy, & Jewish Ritual. The picture books and chapter books on this list will help readers understand more about Jewish practices both in synagogue and in the home. Click here to see the list.


Produced by: Feldman Children's Library at Congregation B'nai Israel  
Supported in part by: Association of Jewish Libraries
Theme music: The Freilachmakers Klezmer String Band   


Twitter: @bookoflifepod  


Your feedback is appreciated! Please write to or call our voicemail number at 561-206-2473. 

Tuesday, November 06, 2018

The Missing Voices of Moe and Mo

A Moon for Moe and Mo by Jane Breskin Zalben, illustrated by Mehrdohkt Amini
Jane Breskin Zalben is an artist/illustrator and the author of over 50 books for children. Her recent picture book, A Moon for Moe and Mo, was featured in the Missing Voice picture book discussion group on Facebook in September 2018. The Missing Voice group was created by another author, Lisa Rose, to bring books about under-represented populations into the limelight. You may be familiar with Lisa's book, Shmulik Paints the Town. I spoke with Jane and Lisa by conference call, in the week following the anti-Semitic attack at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, because I felt it was the right time to talk about stories that model friendships between Jews and non-Jews, and to encourage people to read more books that offer windows into different cultures. 

During that same week, I worked with a bunch of my favorite women, my posse of snarky Jewish kidlit nerds from across the world, to create a book list addressing anti-Semitism. We crafted a list of picture books and chapter books on the theme of "standing up for each other." It's the first in the Love Your Neighbor series of book lists published by the Association of Jewish Libraries. There's a great article at Tablet Magazine about the creation of the book list series. Please use and share the Love Your Neighbor book lists as widely as you can! 


The Golden Rule by Ilene Cooper, art by Gabi Swiatkowska, Abrams, ages 4-8
This book is a gentle reminder of a timeless rule for parent and child: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. A boy and his grandfather discuss the rule’s universality and how to put it into practice.
Hannah’s Way by Linda Glaser, art by Adam Gustavson, Kar-Ben, ages 4-8
After Papa loses his job during the Depression, Hannah's family moves to rural Minnesota, where she is the only Jewish child in her class. When her teacher tries to arrange carpools for a Saturday class picnic, Hannah is upset. Her Jewish family is observant, and she knows she cannot ride on the Sabbath. What will she do? A lovely story of friendship and community.
Emma’s Poem: The Voice of the Statue of Liberty by Linda Glaser, art by Claire A. Nivola, Houghton Mifflin, ages 4-8
In 1883, Jewish Emma Lazarus, deeply moved by an influx of immigrants from eastern Europe, wrote a sonnet that gave a voice to the Statue of Liberty. The statue, thanks to Emma's poem, came to define us as a nation that welcomes immigrants. A true story.
Never Say a Mean Word Again: A Tale from Medieval Spain by Jacqueline Jules, art by Durga Yael Bernhard, Wisdom Tales Press, ages 4-8
Inspired by a powerful legend of conflict resolution, Never Say a Mean Word Again is the compelling story of a boy who is given permission to punish an enemy. A surprising twist shows how an enemy can become a friend.
Here is the story of two icons for social justice, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr and Abraham Joshua Heschel, how they formed a remarkable friendship and turned their personal experiences of discrimination into a message of love and equality for all.
The Whispering Town by Jennifer Elvgren, art by Fabio Santomauro, Kar-Ben, ages 7-11
The dramatic story of neighbors in a small Danish fishing village who, during the Holocaust, shelter a Jewish family waiting to be ferried to safety in Sweden. Worried about their safety, friends devise a clever and unusual plan for their safe passage to the harbor. Based on a true story.
Vive La Paris by Esme Raji Codell, Hyperion, ages 9-12
Paris has come for piano lessons, not chopped-liver sandwiches or French lessons or free advice.  But when old Mrs. Rosen, who is Jewish, gives her a little bit more than she can handle, it might be just what Paris needs to understand the bully in her brother’s life…and the bullies of the world.
Refugee by Alan Gratz, Scholastic, ages 9-13
A Jewish boy in 1930s Nazi Germany, a Cuban girl in 1994, a Syrian boy in 2015 - all three go on harrowing journeys in search of refuge. This action-packed novel tackles topics both timely and timeless: courage, survival, and the quest for home.
The Inquisitor’s Tale, Or, The Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog by Adam Gidwitz, art by Hatem Aly, Dutton, ages 9-15
France, 1242. Three children: a Christian peasant girl, a Moorish boy raised as a monk, and a Jewish boy. On the run to escape prejudice and persecution and save precious and holy texts from being burned, their quest drives them forward to a final showdown
The Hired Girl by Laura Amy Schlitz, Candlewick, ages 10-14
Fourteen-year-old Joan’s 1911 journey from the muck of the chicken coop to the comforts of a Jewish society household in Baltimore takes readers on an exploration of feminism and housework; religion and literature; love and loyalty; cats, hats, and bunions.
Lauren Yanofsky Hates the Holocaust by Leanne Lieberman, Orca, ages 13-18
Jewish teen Lauren is sick of Holocaust memorials. But when she sees some of her friends--including Jesse, a cute boy she likes--playing Nazi war games, she is faced with a terrible choice: betray her friends or betray her heritage.

Tropical Secrets: Holocaust Refugees in Cuba by Margarita Engle, Henry Holt, ages 12 to adult
Daniel has escaped Nazi Germany with nothing but a desperate dream that he might one day find his parents again. But that golden land called New York has turned away the ship full of refugees, and Daniel finds himself in Cuba. The young refugee befriends a local girl with some painful secrets of her own. Yet even in Cuba, the Nazi darkness is never far away.

Produced by: Feldman Children's Library at Congregation B'nai Israel  
Supported in part by: Association of Jewish Libraries
Theme music: The Freilachmakers Klezmer String Band 
Twitter: @bookoflifepod  

Your feedback is appreciated! Please write to or call our voicemail number at 561-206-2473.

Thursday, November 01, 2018

Love Your Neighbor: An AJL Book List Series

In response to the anti-Semitic domestic terrorism that took place at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, PA last Saturday, my friends and I have done what librarians do: we've turned to literature, not for explanations, but for solutions. After 100+ email messages back and forth, we've hammered out a cream-of-the-crop list of "window" books for youth, that we hope will build empathy and understanding in the hearts of non-Jewish readers.

There's no knowing whether books like these would have made a difference if read during the childhood of the Pittsburgh shooter, and we can't guarantee that reading them to today's kids will prevent future tragedy. But as the Pirkei Avot, the Ethics of the Fathers, tell us, we are not obligated to complete the work of combating anti-Semitism, but neither are we free to desist from it. We've got to do what we can. As librarians, we know that the right book can make a difference, especially when read during the formative years of childhood. 

My kidlit posse: myself, Barbara Bietz, Kathy Bloomfield, Elissa Gershowitz, Marjorie Ingall, Rachel Kamin, Susan Kusel, Chava Pinchuck, and Lisa Silverman, have spent the last few days and nights bouncing titles off each other, fine tuning our message, and proof reading like crazy. And now, we are very proud to present the first in a series (because we had too much material for a single book list), "Love Your Neighbor: Standing Up For Each Other." Future entries in the series will cover Jewish diversity, synagogues and clergy, and cross-cultural friendship. We are open to suggestion for other themes that might be useful, keeping in mind that the target audience is NON-Jewish kids and teens. 

The series will be hosted on the Association of Jewish Libraries blog. Here's the first book list: Standing Up For Each Other. Please share it as widely as you can!