9 Excellent Jewish Kids Books for Hanukkah Gifts and Beyond
The Children’s Book Review | December 1, 2015
Jewish Books | Hanukkah Books | Great Books
Publisher’s Synopsis: A refugee seeking sanctuary from the horrors of Kristallnacht, Oskar arrives by ship in New York City with only a photograph and an address for an aunt he has never met. It is both the seventh day of Hanukkah and Christmas Eve, 1938. As Oskar walks the length of Manhattan, from the Battery to his new home in the north of the city, he passes experiences the city’s many holiday sights, and encounters it various residents. Each offers Oskar a small act of kindness, welcoming him to the city and helping him on his way to a new life in the new world. This is a heartwarming, timeless picture book.
Ages 4-8 | Publisher: Roaring Brook Press | 2015 | ISBN-13: 978-1596439498
Written by Lesléa Newman
Illustrated by Susan Gal
Publisher’s Synopsis: Here is the world, ever changing and new,
Spinning with joy at the wonder of you!
Here Is the World is a joyous celebration of the Jewish holidays throughout the year for young children. Beginning with the weekly observance of Shabbat, readers join a family through the holidays and the corresponding seasons. From sounding the shofar on Rosh Hashanah to lighting the menorah for Chanukah to rattling a grogger for Purim, and on through the Jewish year, the joy and significance of each holiday beautifully come to life.
In addition to the narrative text, there is a description of each holiday in the back matter along with an easy craft or recipe.
Ages 5-7 | Publisher: Harry N. Abrams | 2014 | ISBN-13: 978-1419711855
Written by Lesléa Newman
Illustrated by Amy June Bates
Publisher’s Synopsis: A kitten’s stroll down a keyboard leads to a celebrated one-minute composition in this charming portrait of a remarkable true friendship.
Moshe Cotel was a composer who lived in a noisy building on a noisy street in a noisy city. But Moshe didn’t mind. Everything he heard was music to his ears. One day, while out for a walk, he heard a small, sad sound that he’d never heard before. It was a tiny kitten! “Come on, little Ketzel,” Moshe said, “I will take you home and we will make beautiful music together.” And they did—in a most surprising way. Inspired by a true story, Lesléa Newman and Amy June Bates craft an engaging tale of a creative man and the beloved cat who brings unexpected sweet notes his way.
Ages 5-8 | Publisher: Candlewick | 2015 | ISBN-13: 978-0763665555
Written by Monica Brown
Publisher’s Synopsis: Lola Levine likes writing in her diario, sipping her mom’s cafe con leche, eating her dad’s matzo ball soup, and playing soccer with her team, the Orange Smoothies. So what if she doesn’t always fit in?
Lola is fierce on the field, but when a soccer game during recess gets too competitive, she accidentally hurts her classmate Juan Gomez. Now everyone is calling her Mean Lola Levine! Lola feels terrible, but with the help of her family, her super best friend, Josh Blot, and a little “pencil power,” she just might be able to turn it all around.
Ages 6-10 | Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers | 2015 | ISBN-13: 978-0316258364
Written by Barry Deutsch
Publisher’s Synopsis: Welcome back to Hereville, where Mirka, the world’s first time-traveling, monster-fighting Orthodox Jewish girl, faces her greatest challenge yet: babysitting! Mirka just wants to find new adventures, but instead she’s stuck babysitting her disapproving little sister, Layele. When Mirka pushes her sister into a stream, they both get in too deep with an angry magic fish. No matter how hard Mirka fights this fish-out-of-water, it gets stronger and stronger—and it’s out for revenge. Mirka is in over her head, and this time, her whole family is on the line! When the fish kidnaps Layele, Mirka must find a way to save her little sister, and the clues she needs are hidden in her stepmother Fruma’s past. Mixing adventure, cultural traditions, squabbling siblings, and preteen commotion, Hereville: How Mirka Caught a Fish is sure to captivate readers with its exciting visuals and indomitable heroine.
Ages 8-12 | Publisher: Harry N. Abrams | 2015 | ISBN-13: 978-1419708008
Written by Trudy Ludwig
Illustrated by Craig Orback
Publisher’s Synopsis: Gifts from the Enemy is the powerful and moving story based on From a Name to a Number: A Holocaust Survivor’s Autobiography by Alter Wiener, in which Alter recalls his loss of family at the hands of the Nazis and his internment in five prison camps during World War II. This picture book tells one moving episode during Alter’s imprisonment, when an unexpected person demonstrates moral courage in repeated acts of kindness to young Alter during his imprisonment. Written by acclaimed children’s writer Trudy Ludwig, author of Better Than You and Confessions of a Former Bully, and illustrated by award-winning children’s book illustrator Craig Orback, Gifts from the Enemy teaches children in age-appropriate language about the dangers of hatred, prejudice, and stereotyping and that there are good and bad in every group of people. The accompanying questions and activities for readers provide teachers and parents with helpful direction in presenting this history and the valuable story. Gifts from the Enemy highlights how acts of social justice and kindness can change lives.
Ages 8-12 | Publisher: White Cloud Press | 2015 | ISBN-13: 978-1935952978
Written by Melanie Crowder
Publisher’s Synopsis: The inspiring story of Clara Lemlich, whose fight for equal rights led to the largest strike by women in American history.
A gorgeously told novel in verse written with intimacy and power, Audacity is inspired by the real-life story of Clara Lemlich, a spirited young woman who emigrated from Russia to New York at the turn of the twentieth century and fought tenaciously for equal rights. Bucking the norms of both her traditional Jewish family and societal conventions, Clara refuses to accept substandard working conditions in the factories on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. For years, Clara devotes herself to the labor fight, speaking up for those who suffer in silence. In time, Clara convinces the women in the factories to strike, organize, and unionize, culminating in the famous Uprising of the 20,000.
Powerful, breathtaking, and inspiring, Audacity is the story of a remarkable young woman, whose passion and selfless devotion to her cause changed the world.
Ages 12+ | Publisher: Philomel Books | 2015 | ISBN-13: 978-0399168994
Written by Laura Amy Schlitz
Publisher’s Synopsis: Newbery Medalist Laura Amy Schlitz brings her delicious wit and keen eye to early twentieth-century America in a moving yet comedic tour de force.
Fourteen-year-old Joan Skraggs, just like the heroines in her beloved novels, yearns for real life and true love. But what hope is there for adventure, beauty, or art on a hardscrabble farm in Pennsylvania where the work never ends? Over the summer of 1911, Joan pours her heart out into her diary as she seeks a new, better life for herself—because maybe, just maybe, a hired girl cleaning and cooking for six dollars a week can become what a farm girl could only dream of—a woman with a future. Newbery Medalist Laura Amy Schlitz relates Joan’s journey from the muck of the chicken coop to the comforts of a society household in Baltimore (Electricity! Carpet sweepers! Sending out the laundry!), taking readers on an exploration of feminism and housework; religion and literature; love and loyalty; cats, hats, and bunions.
Ages 12+ | Publisher: Candlewick | 2015 | ISBN-13: 978-0763678180
Written by Becky Albertalli
Publisher’s Synopsis: Sixteen-year-old and not-so-openly gay Simon Spier prefers to save his drama for the school musical. But when an email falls into the wrong hands, his secret is at risk of being thrust into the spotlight. Now change-averse Simon has to find a way to step out of his comfort zone before he’s pushed out—without alienating his friends, compromising himself, or fumbling a shot at happiness with the most confusing, adorable guy he’s never met.
Incredibly funny and poignant, this twenty-first-century coming-of-age, coming out story—wrapped in a geek romance—is a knockout of a debut novel by Becky Albertalli.
Ages 14+ | Publisher: Balzer + Bray | 2015 | ISBN-13: 978-0062348678
This list of “9 Excellent Jewish Kids Books for Hanukkah Gifts and Beyond” was curated by Bianca Schulze. Discover more articles on The Children’s Book Review tagged with Hanukkah, Jewish Books and Holiday Gift Guide Kids Books.