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Mar 18 2014

Jewish Preschool Isn’t an Option. Now What?

By at 10:14 am

jewishpreschool

There’s a preschool at one of the local temples that the parents just rave about. In fact, my husband and I recently started attending the temple’s monthly Tot Shabbat programs with our 2-year-old, and we’ve already gotten a taste of just how much these little children are picking up. Some of the older ones can recite blessings and know several prayers by heart. And even the younger ones know that you’re supposed to do things like cover your eyes when it’s time to say the  Shema.

This preschool sounds really, really great. It’s exactly the kind of place I’d like to send my son. Unfortunately, that’s not an option. Like most preschools, this one only offers programming for about three hours a day, and when you’re a family like ours, where both parents work full-time, three hours of coverage just won’t cut it. So now it’s up to me and my husband to attempt to compensate by introducing our toddler to the traditions I so desperately want him to love and appreciate, but I worry that my sporadic incorporation of Judaism into our hectic, over-scheduled lives just isn’t going to be enough in the long run. Read the rest of this entry →

Jun 21 2013

Friday Night: Repairing the World Means Helping People

By at 10:12 am

tikkun olam tedJoining PJ Library is one of the best things we’ve done as parents. Every month a new Jewish book arrives at our home and Lila learns about a Jewish holiday or concept through a story that’s meaningful to her. Several PJ Library books–like the Hanukkah counting book and the Dayenu”-centric Passover book–have become diaper bag must-haves, genuine favorites that we have read countless times. Perhaps because our experience has been so superlative, I was surprised by a disappointing recent selection.

Tikkun Olam Ted tells the story of a boy who is small in stature but does big things. He works to repair the world daily, and this storybook covers one presumably typical week. Each day, Ted does a different, vividly illustrated Tikkun Olam project. And whenever we finish the book, Lila enthusiastically chants, “’gain!,” eager for an encore reading.  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.

Apr 12 2013

Friday Night: Desperately Seeking Mom Friends

By at 2:13 pm

lawn mowerThe weather is warming up and here’s a piece of advice for anyone thinking of moving to the suburbs: do it when the weather is nice.

Through the long winter months, I thought a lot about how living in the city forces you to be a part of the community in a way that the suburbs do not. Back in Brooklyn, I could easily spend a day alone with the kids but not feel lonely for adult company, because wherever I went, I was surrounded by people. If I sat on a bench with the girls at the park, other parents and their kids were inevitably doing the same at an adjacent bench and suddenly we had our own adult version of parallel play without meaning to. Lack of space indoors meant people were pushed out of doors, even in inclement weather.  Read the rest of this entry →

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.**

PJ Library Corner: Interview with Laurel Snyder, Author of The Longest Night

By at 9:39 am

the longest night laurel snyderOne 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 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.**

It seems like the plagues get a lot of attention when it comes to celebrating Passover with kids, but they’re usually cutesied upplague 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

PJ Library Corner: The Best Books for Purim

By at 1:56 pm

sammy spider's first purim

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 Purimwritten 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 →

Jan 14 2013

PJ Library Corner: A Tree is Nice, Indeed

By at 5:03 pm

a tree is nice children's picture book

In case you didn’t know, there’s a minor Jewish holiday coming up on January 25th called Tu Bishvat, and it’s all about trees.

Oftentimes referred to as the “New Year for Trees” or the “Birthday of the Trees,” Tu Bishvat comes as the trees in Israel just start to blossom (we know, we know, there’s still snow on the ground in many places right now, including Israel, but an early springtime celebration never hurts).

Anyways, back to the trees: many families celebrate Tu Bishvat by planting trees and celebrating all that they have to offer. This month, PJ Library, an organization that sends out free Jewish books to families each month, offered up a true gem, just in time for Tu Bishvat: A Tree is Nice by Janice May Udry, illustrated by Marc Simont. Originally published in 1956 and winner of the Caldecott Medal, this charming picture book is a throwback to a simpler time, and a reminder to soak in the wonder of nature all around us. Read the rest of this entry →

Dec 13 2012

The Better Way to Read to Your Kids

By at 1:46 pm

siblings reading to each otherSometimes, while all four children are seated at the table, shoveling cheerios down their o-shaped mouths, I have tried to limit breakfast battles by reading a book.

It does not seem to matter what kind of book I read in the early hour; they all listen and concentrate on the tale at hand. With my children ranging from teen, tween and post-tot, it fascinates me that each child is able to enjoy the story, no matter what their reading level is. This has led me to think about the power of picture books and early reading comprehension. Read the rest of this entry →

Nov 30 2012

Free Stuff Alert: Hanukkah Activity Book & Card Games

By at 9:29 am

hanukkah activity book emily sperThe gifts keep coming, and it’s not even Hanukkah yet! We’re excited to announce another giveaway, this time for some super fun Hanukkah-centric goodies for your kids.

Emily Sper is a children’s book author who has created a number of great Hanukkah books and activities for kids. Her book Hanukkah: A Counting Book has been a featured PJ Library book, and we’ve got two great supplements to give away: The Hanukkah Coloring & Activity Book and the Hanukkah Card Games Set.

To win this pair of Hanukkah fun, please sign up for our newsletter by clicking here, and then let us know once you have in the comments below. We’ll choose a winner next Wednesday, December 5th, so be sure to keep an eye on your comment that day, as we’ll reply to the winner.

hanukkah card games set emily sper

To see more of Emily Sper’s work, check out her website here.

To receive books like Emily’s in the mail for free every month, sign up for PJ Library. Families in the New York metro area can do so here, and anyone else can find their local community here.

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