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Aug 18 2014

Win a Free Copy of “The Kissing Bandit” Book & Reversible Puppet

By at 11:15 am

Kissing

“The Kissing Bandit” is an indie children’s book that celebrates the importance of positive affection between parents and kids. The brainchild of Jewish dads Jason Menayan and Aaron Dence, “The Kissing Bandit” started as a kickstarter campaign and eventually became an interactive story about the dapper Professor Roade who magically transforms into colorful bandit Edora, and a hand-made reversible puppet to go with it. This week Jason and Aaron will be giving away a book and puppet set to three lucky winners (enter the raffle below).

Meanwhile, we sat down with Jason to talk about his inspiration for the book and what he kvells about. 

1. What was the inspiration for “The Kissing Bandit”? Read the rest of this entry →

Jul 28 2014

Why Are There No Children’s Books About the Saddest Day of the Jewish Year?

By at 12:04 pm

book-store

It seemed like an easy enough question. What books could I use to teach my preschooler about Tisha B’Av? Since my son was born, children’s books had heralded every event of his life, big or small. We had Boynton for waking up and bedtime; “How Are You Peeling?” to discuss emotions, Berenstain Bears to assist with our move to a new city, and ­I had bought ­picture books for every Jewish holiday. But the first time I tried to explain why I wasn’t eating or drinking on a hot summer day, I didn’t have a book to help me.

The concept of fasting was relatively easy.

“Not eating is a way of remembering sad things that have happened,” I told my 3-year-­old. “When we don’t eat, our bodies feel bad, and that reminds us of feeling bad in our hearts. It’s also a way of talking to Go­d. It’s like we’re saying, ‘Go­d, help me. I feel so sad about what happened, I can’t even eat anything!’” I stopped and responded to simple questions about when I could eat again and whether I was allowed to drink water. But my son didn’t stop there. Read the rest of this entry →

Jun 24 2014

Our Ever-Growing Bedtime Routine Needs to Stop, But I’m Not Ready

By at 10:50 am

sleepless-toddler

A few weeks after my son was born, I made up a lullaby that I’d sing before putting him to bed. Back then, getting my son into his crib was a simple matter of swapping his diaper for a new one and belting out a two-minute song before calling it a night (yep, we were very fortunate). But somehow, over the past two years our bedtime routine has evolved from a quick pajama change and lullaby into a 45-minute extravaganza complete with stories, videos, and many, many songs. And it just seems to be growing by the day.

Here’s how things will typically go down: First, my son will run around his room like a maniac as I attempt to grab hold of him and lift him onto his changing table. From there, he’ll wiggle and squirm as I desperately work to get his pajamas on. After he’s clothed, we’ll head to the bathroom to brush his teeth, which often takes longer than necessary thanks to my son’s desire to touch absolutely everything on the counter before finally opening wide.

But once his pajamas are on and his teeth are brushed, the real fun begins. It starts with a story from a collection of books we store crib-side. Ever since he was about 1.5, we started giving our son the privilege of selecting his bedtime story himself. What this now means is that he’ll pick up every book on the pile before choosing one–and then once we settle into our rocking chair to read it, he’ll invariably bolt off my lap, insisting that he made the wrong book choice. If I don’t let him switch, a fit will most likely ensue, so I usually allow him one book swap before putting my foot down. Read the rest of this entry →

Apr 11 2014

Free Stuff Alert: “Dinosaur on Passover” E-Book

By at 11:17 am

Dinosaur on Passover e-book

Still looking for ways to get your kids amped up for Passover? When in doubt, add DINOSAURS!

“Dinosaur on Passover” is the perfect story to celebrate Passover with your kids. It’s the story of an eager, playful dinosaur who show’s up at a young boy’s house for the seder and causes a bit of havoc. Discover even more Passover e-books for kids here.

We’ve got one free download of “Dinosaur on Passover” to give away to a lucky reader. To enter, just fill out the form below and we’ll choose a winner on Monday, April 14th. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Jul 11 2013

Bubbe’s Top 10 Books for Jewish Kids

By at 5:03 pm

the tale of meshka the kvetchThere has been a lot on Kveller about books for Jewish children but I have not seen any mention of my own favorites. So, after decades of reading to my children and grandchildren, here are my own top 10 picks for you to share with the children you love (between the ages of 3-8, all available on Amazon):

1. Yussel’s Prayer retold by Barbara Cohen: The story of a young cowherd and his simple Yom Kippur prayer. When my children were small, we read this every year on Yom Kippur night.

2. The Magician by Uri Shulevitz: Elijah the Prophet works his magic for an impoverished couple on Passover.

3. The Tale of Meshka the Kvetch by Carol Chapman: Need a laugh with a life lesson? This might be just the book for adults, too. Read the rest of this entry →

Jun 27 2013

Free Stuff Alert: “My First Kafka” by Matthue Roth

By at 11:47 am

my first kafkaYou know Franz Kafka? The author of The Metamorphosisthe story of a man who turns into a giant bug? Well, now your kids can know him, too.

Kveller contributor and author Matthue Roth has a new children’s book out that we’re super excited about. My First Kafka retells three Kafka stories, including The Metamorphosis, but this time with a much younger audience in mind. Considering the subject matter–runaway children who meet up with monsters; a giant talking bug; a secret world of mouse-people–it’s no wonder why Roth decided to bring these quirky stories to younger readers. To learn more about My First Kafka, check out today’s feature on Jewniverse (which if you haven’t been reading already, you really must).

So now let’s get to the good part: we’ve got five copies of My First Kafka to giveaway to five lucky readers. To enter, fill out the form below and we’ll choose a winner next Wednesday, July 3rd. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

May 24 2013

Friday Night: What Would Lyle Do?

By at 11:26 am

Lyl, Lyle CrocodileBernard Waber died last week at the age of 91. If that name doesn’t ring a bell for you, then you need to go straight to your local library and pick up one of many beautifully-illustrated kid’s books about a happy crocodile living on the Upper East Side of Manhattan with the humans Mr. and Mrs. Primm and their son, Joshua.

Waber was the author and illustrator of the sweet and lovely Lyle the Crocodile books. He wrote over 30 books for children in total, including one of my personal favorites, Ira Sleeps Over, in which a little boy debates whether or not to bring his teddy bear to his friend Reggie’s house for a sleepover (“Will he laugh at me?”).

All of Waber’s work was touched not only by exceptional illustrations, but also by insight. Waber was graced with the talent to truly see into the hearts of children, and to communicate their needs and wishes through the unlikely prism of a brownstone-dwelling crocodile. Waber’s talent lay in the way he conveyed important lessons about empathy, love and goodness in a way that comes across as genuine rather than preachy. Today’s moralistic kid books, in comparison, mostly have the subtlety of a sledgehammer.

Anyone with more than one child would serve themselves well to get a copy of Waber’s Lyle and the Birthday Party.” In this book, Joshua is having a birthday party and Lyle finds himself swept up in a bitter tide of unexpected jealousy.  In fact, Lyle is so mad about all the attention being paid to Joshua rather than him that he steps on one of Joshua’s gifts and breaks it – and genuinely doesn’t know whether he did it by accident or on purpose. I’ve never read a book that conveyed so well the pull of the tide of envy, or how those who are jealous sometimes genuinely don’t want to be, and hate it that they find themselves so upset.  Isn’t that a great lesson for adults as well as children?

In fact, all of Waber’s books have something to teach adults as well as kids. The New York Times obituary for Waber singled out Lovable Lyle as worthy of note for its subtle and smart take on bullying and prejudice. Lyle is shocked to learn that someone “hates” him, and he doesn’t know why. “Down with crocodiles,” someone writes on a fence near his house, and sends him anonymous letters telling him they hate him.

“Well, Lyle,” Mrs. Primm tells Lyle, “it seems no matter how much we may think we want to, it isn’t always possible to please everyone, or be liked by everyone.”

I could use that lesson myself, personally. In recent days, I’ve been troubled by someone who seems to harbor an irrational dislike of me. Maybe we’d all be well-served to ask ourselves, “What would Lyle do?” In the book, Lyle continues to go about his life as his friendly, super-nice self—and in fact ends up changing the mind of the “hater”  and her mother (the source of the hate) when he rescues her at the beach.  “Be yourself,” Waber implicitly teaches, “and everything else will work out accordingly.” – something I’ve always believed.

Maybe it isn’t something I’ve ‘always’ believed – maybe my viewpoint on this and other topics was formed by the imaginary kindnesses of an Upper East Side crocodile. My mother and father read Waber’s books to me as a child, I read them to my sons, and now I read them to my daughter.

In reading and re-reading them to me, my parents implicitly taught me that Lyle and Bernard Waber had something to say, and something that was relevant to the way that I should live my life. And I hope to teach the same lesson to my children.

In Hebrew, the saying is “L’dor va dor” – from generation to generation, we pass down our values and traditions. While this is usually meant to refer to more explicitly Jewish rituals, I’d say it means our values as well – our beliefs in being the best people we can be, with our actions exemplifying empathy, kindness and gratitude.

There is another relevant Jewish saying: “Teach the child the way he ought to go, and even when he is old, he will not depart from it.” I think of that as I light candles on Friday night, as my sons sing the prayers, my daughter puts the coins in the tzedakah box, and my other daughter looks on — and as I re-read, for the one billionth time, the stories of the happy reptile on East 88th Street.

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May 14 2013

Are Bible Stories Way Too Aggressive for Kids?

By at 3:39 pm
daniel in the lion's den

Daniel in the lion’s den.

Living in a predominantly non-Jewish environment, we make a conscious effort to cultivate our kids’ Jewish identities. So I bought a couple of Bible storybooks, wanting to give my kids the main highlights of biblical narrative.

While I love Torah study and recognize that every word is ripe with meaning, I now see how the “juicy” parts of biblical narrative are difficult to digest. And when we cozy up on the couch at bedtime, I am confronted with page after page of troubling tales. There’s the fratricide of Cain and Abel, the slavery and the killing of the firstborn child in Egypt, Samson murdering his aggressors and committing suicide in the Samson and Delilah narrative, and of course, a Prophet Daniel and his brush with death in the Lion’s den (spoiler alert: he comes out alive). Night after night I find myself sanitizing these stories, glossing over the violent acts that are hard for me to swallow.  Read the rest of this entry →

Apr 18 2013

PJ Library Corner: The Cats on Ben Yehuda Street

By at 10:51 am

the cats on ben yehuda streetIf you’ve ever visited Israel, you may have noticed that one thing the small country definitely does not lack is cats. And while this may pose a problem if you, like me, are allergic to anything with fur (or pollen or hay or grass or dust or melon; yes, I’m a mess), cat lovers will find themselves right at home.

Little cat lovers will love The Cats on Ben Yehuda Streeta picture book that gives kids a taste of Jerusalem through the story of its cats. Featuring Mr. Modiano, the curmudgeonly owner of a fish shop who hates cats, and Mrs. Spiegel, his customer and owner of a little gray cat, Ketzie, the book tells the story of an unlikely friendship, of both the human and feline variety.

The Cats on Ben Yehuda Street is just one of the great Jewish kids books sent out by PJ Library this month. If you’d like to get free books delivered right to your home every month, be sure to sign up for PJ Library today. If you live in the New York metro area, you can sign up directly through Kveller here. If you live elsewhere, check out this map to find a PJ community near you.

Sign up for free books from PJ Library today.

Mar 15 2013

Free Stuff Alert: The Longest Night by Laurel Snyder

By at 10:46 am

the longest night by laurel snyderYou’ve read the interview, now enter the contest!

We’re giving away a copy of Laurel Snyder’s new Passover picture book, The Longest NightA beautiful retelling of the Passover story through the eyes of a young Jewish girl, The Longest Night offers young kids a poetic and accessible look into the story of Passover.

To enter, fill out the form below. We’ll choose a winner next Wednesday, March 20th. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

**The Longest Night is a PJ Library book, as well as Snyder’s previous children’s book, Baxter, the Pig Who Wanted to be KosherTo get great Jewish books like these for free every month, sign up for PJ Library. If you’re in the New York metro area, sign up through Kveller here. If you live elsewhere, check out this map to find your local PJ community.**

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