Mar 15 2013
One of the most unique Passover children’s books we’ve seen yet is the new picture book from Laurel Snyder, The Longest Night. Like many books of the sort, it retells the story of Exodus, but it’s told from the perspective of a young Jewish girl. And where other kids books may skip or doll up some of the more violent/sad parts of the Passover story, Snyder stays pretty true to the script. It makes for a compelling read, and we were lucky enough to sit down with Laurel and ask her a few questions.
**The Longest Night is a PJ Library book, as well as Snyder’s previous children’s book, Baxter, the Pig Who Wanted to be Kosher. To 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.**
It seems like the plagues get a lot of attention when it comes to celebrating Passover with kids, but they’re usually cutesied up–plague finger puppets, plague masks, plague bowling set, etc. The plagues in your book are decidedly not cute (no offense). Why did you choose to present a more realistic view of the plagues, and do those cutesy products mentioned above bother you?
Honestly, there’s something fascinating about taking the gruesome and making it playful. I’m not offended at all. But we should ask what we’re trying to accomplish when we do that. Read the rest of this entry →
Feb 13 2013
Purim is a week and half away (starting on February 23rd) and if you’re looking for more ways to pump your kids up for this joyous holiday (besides costumes and noisemakers) there are some great books out there that we recommend.
All of these books are PJ Library books, meaning you can get them FOR FREE, along with other fantastic Jewish children’s books, every month. If you live in New York, you can sign up for PJ Library through Kveller by clicking here. For everyone else, you can find your local community here.
But enough with that shpiel (get it?). Onto the books!
1. Sammy Spider’s First Purim, written by Sylvia A. Rouss, illustrated by Katherin Janus Kahn
The Shapiro family is getting ready for Purim. Josh is making a grogger to take to the synagogue Megillah reading. Sammy Spider wants to participate, but as Sammy’s mother reminds him, “Spiders don’t celebrate holidays; spiders spin webs.” This time Sammy’s curiosity gets him stuck inside a grogger, spinning noisily among the beans. How will he escape? Ages 5 and up. Read the rest of this entry →
Feb 5 2013
Last month, we co-sponsored the launch of The Purim Superhero by Elizabeth Kushner, winner of Keshet’s National Book-Writing Contest. The picture book is the first ever LGBT-inclusive Jewish kids’ book published in English, and it tells the super cute story of a little boy named Nate.
Nate has a Purim dilemma. He loves aliens and really wants to wear an alien costume for Purim, but his friends are all dressing as superheroes and he wants to fit in. What will he do? With the help of his two dads he makes a surprising decision. Read the rest of this entry →
Jan 24 2013
Two months prior to my birth, according to the date on the inside cover in my mother’s handwriting, my parents received a copy of Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree. A gift that, based on an unscientific survey of people in my demographic, was a very popular birth gift in the late 1960s/early 1970s.
When I was growing up, Tu Bishvat included an annual reading of The Giving Tree. It was a tradition that I dreaded. A rather unpopular reaction at the time and one that I learned to keep to myself. After all, it takes a certain kind of crazy to publicly decry a beloved children’s book. Although I wasn’t yet able to articulate it, there was something about the relationship between the boy and the tree that greatly troubled me. Read the rest of this entry →
Jan 16 2013
As you may have guessed, we’re huge fans of Jewish children’s books, which is why we were very excited to co-sponsor the launch of The Purim Superhero, the first LGBT-inclusive Jewish children’s book in English!
This book, written by Elisabeth Kushner and illustrated by Mike Byrne, was the winner of Keshet’s National Book-Writing Contest, and we couldn’t be happier to finally see it released from Kar-Ben Publishing.
So what’s it all about? Read the rest of this entry →
May 8 2012
There are so many things to say about Maurice Sendak, the incredible children’s writer and illustrator who died today at 83 years old. In the famous book The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales, child psychologist Bruno Bettelheim wrote that the most truly magical works of children’s literature were the ones that allowed children to face their terrors and fears through symbolism. Sendak was a master of this–and not only for children.
Facebook feeds will surely be full up today with status message tributes to Sendak’s legacy. Read the rest of this entry →
Feb 9 2012
It’s hard to put into words how much Maurice Sendak means to me. I know I’m not alone in this–Where The Wild Things Are touched a nerve from the moment it hit bookstore shelves in 1964, and even though he comes across as a crotchety old curmudgeon in interviews (we’re talking Colbert Report), let’s be serious: the Little Bear illustrations show someone with a deep, sensory memory of a mother’s love. Read the rest of this entry →
Jan 31 2012
So, I’ve been writing a little bit for the Forward. Last month I pleaded with the Jewish establishment to spend money on Jewish childcare (preferably in my part of Brooklyn!). And this month I take on Jewish children’s books arguing that they should be better. Here’s the first bit to get you started. Click on over to the Forward to read the rest.
(Feel free to disagree with me, and please, please share the names of your favorite Jewish books in the comment section below.) Read the rest of this entry →
Jan 18 2012
If you’re looking to update your kids’ bookshelves with some great new Jewish children’s books, how about some prize winners? The Sydney Taylor Book Awards for 2012 have just been announced, recognizing the best in Jewish children’s writing each year.
Without further ado, this year’s winners were:
The Sydney Taylor Book Award Winner for Younger Readers:
Chanukah Lights by Michael J. Rosen with artwork by Robert Sabuda
Read the rest of this entry →