Usher in the Jewish New Year with a crop of new children’s books for the High Holidays and Sukkot. Kids of all ages will enjoy cracking open the covers of these stories that glow with the warmth and joy of Jewish traditions.
“Whale of a Tale”
Eric A. Kimmel; illustrations by Ivica Stevanovic
Master tale-weaver Eric A. Kimmel takes school-age kids on a rollicking time-travel adventure back to ancient Israel at the time of Jonah, a perfect story in advance of Yom Kippur when the Book of Jonah is read during synagogue services. In this third installment of Kimmel’s Scarlet and Sam chapter book series, the adventure begins when the twin sister and brother mistakenly leave their Grandma Mina’s special Persian rug in the trunk of a cab driven by a man named Jonah. Suddenly, they are transported to ancient Israel, where they stow away on a ship and reunite with Jonah. They learn he is the prophet who is avoiding God’s directive to travel to Nineveh. The light-hearted caper introduces kids to the outlines of the biblical tale, as Sam, Scarlet, and Jonah go overboard and are swallowed up in the belly of a big fish. The clever siblings are determined to get Jonah to be true to his faith and to get their grandmother’s rug back. Ivica Stevanovic’s animated illustrations embellish the story.
“Jackie and Jesse and Joni and Jae”
Chris Barash; illustrations by Christine Battuz
Friendship shines through in Chris Barash’s lovely rhyming story of a group of friends who tag along on a walk with their families and rabbi to Tashlich, the custom during Rosh Hashanah of tossing small pieces of bread into moving water to symbolically cast away mistakes from the past year. Kids will relate as each of the friends realizes the everyday ways that mistakes can be made. Jackie hurt her friend Jesse’s feelings when she laughed at juice that spilled on his shirt. Joni left Jae out of her treehouse. The simple apologies are heartfelt. Christine Battuz’s cartoon-like drawings bring the story alive in the warm tones of autumn. At the book’s end, the friends walk home hand in hand, reminding readers of the meaning of asking forgiveness, a theme central to the High Holidays.
“Once Upon an Apple Cake”
Elana Rubinstein; illustrated by Jennifer Naalchigar
Young readers will get a hoot out of this humor-filled chapter book, where 10-year-old Saralee Siegel has a nose with an unusual superpower to sniff out scents and flavors. As Rosh Hashanah approaches, Saralee, whose family owns a restaurant, is excited to bake her grandfather’s popular apple cake with a mystery ingredient that even she can’t figure out. A new family opens a restaurant in town and tries to take over the apple cake business. When Saralee’s grandfather bumps his head, he temporarily forgets the secret to the cake. Will Saralee’s superpower help solve the mystery so they can bake their cakes and win a contest judged by a famous food critic? More than anything, Saralee hopes that her grandfather returns home from the hospital for Rosh Hashanah. Jennifer Naalchigar’s cartoon-like illustrations add zest to the lively story. The recipe is included at the end of the book.
“Shanah Tovah, Grover!”
Joni Kibort Sussman; illustrated by Tom Leigh
Young fans of “Sesame Street” will be delighted to welcome Rosh Hashanah with Grover, Big Bird, and other favorite characters from the educational television program who celebrate the holiday with apples dipped in honey, a shofar, and a festive meal.
Ann D. Koffsky
Artist and children’s book author Ann Koffsky presents young kids with the biblical story of Creation through the lens of color in this beautifully illustrated book of paper-cut artwork. In the beginning, there was no color. On the second day, shades of blue color the skies and water. On the fourth day, God brightened the world with the yellow and orange sun. With God’s creation of the first two humans, the palette of color broadens, and the world is filled with people of all shades and hues. And on the seventh day, God rested.
“The Elephant in the Sukkah”
Sherri Mandell; illustrated by Ivana Kuman
Henry the elephant used to be the singing star of a circus. But he’s lonely and sad at the farm for old elephants. One day he wanders out and discovers the Brenner family singing in their sukkah, the small outdoor hut people build at their homes during the fall harvest holiday of Sukkot. When the young boy Ori hears Henry singing outside the sukkah, he is determined to fulfill the holiday’s mitzvah of inviting guests and figures out an inventive way to get the large elephant to fit inside the sukkah, Kids will laugh along with Ivana Kuman’s colorful humorous illustrations. An author’s note explains that the idea of elephants in a sukkah comes from the Talmud. Who knew?