With more than 400 books to her name, fans of Jane Yolen might wonder where the acclaimed Western Massachusetts author gets ideas for her still-growing, dazzling array of new books.
In the case of her latest Jewish children’s book, “Something New for Rosh Hashanah,” the prolific, award-winning author, who has been called America’s Hans Christian Andersen, drew on the experiences of her six grandchildren during the years they were growing up.
Yolen’s delightful rhyming story, perfect for ushering in the Jewish new year, stars a spunky young girl named Becca who doesn’t like to try anything new, even her Bubbe’s sweet Rosh Hashanah honey cake.
Almost all of Yolen’s grandchildren, who are now college age, were picky eaters, she told the Journal. “I was thinking of them as I wrote the book,” she wrote in an email. “So, it’s really Nana Jane saying: ‘Listen up!’ to my grandkids in a fun and funny way.”
“Something New for Rosh Hashanah,” with colorful illustrations by Christine Battuz, is one of six new Jewish children’s books for the High Holidays, which begin this year with Rosh Hashanah on Monday evening, Sept. 6.
As families bid farewell to summer, kids will welcome this crop of engaging books that will brighten the start of the Jewish new year.
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“Rosh Hashanah with Uncle Max”
By Varda Livney; Kar-Ben (ages 1 to 4)
A family’s gathering for Rosh Hashanah gets a dose of fun with the arrival of Uncle Max, who drives a pink car decorated with balloons with a large cake box tied to the roof. In this lively board book, three young siblings enjoy a festive meal and go to synagogue, where they hear the shofar. Varda Livney’s simple text introduces the Hebrew words for honey (dvash) and others. Her joyful illustrations feature family members with varying tones of skin color, conveying the diversity of Jewish families.
“Happy ‘Roo Year: It’s Rosh Hashanah”
By Jessica Hickman; Illustrated by Elissambura; Kar-Ben (ages 1 to 4)
Kids can celebrate Rosh Hashanah with a fun-loving family of Australian kangaroos in this lively story in rhyming verse. They’re joined at the synagogue by the koalas, wombats and wallabies. It’s a welcoming holiday message that everyone belongs.
“Something New for Rosh Hashanah”
By Jane Yolen; Illustrated by Christine Battuz; Kar-Ben (ages 4-8)
As her family gets ready to celebrate Rosh Hashanah, a young girl named Becca declares “no!” to anything new, including all the traditional holiday foods – even her Bubbe’s kugel and sweet honey cake. But her resistance starts to wane when she spots a bowl of bright green beans on the festive table. Will this be the start of something new for Becca? In this lively story, master storyteller Jane Yolen serves up playful rhyming language that is perfect for reading aloud. Christine Battuz’s vibrant and expressive illustrations enliven the experience.
“Not So Fast, Max: A Rosh Hashanah Visit with Grandma”
By Annette Schottenfeld; Illustrated by Jennifer Kirkham; Kalaniot Books (ages 4-8)
Every year at Rosh Hashanah, Emily and Max look forward to making caramel apples with their grandmother, who they call Savta, when she visits from Israel. But this year, Savta first plans a trip to the orchard to pick the “tapuchim,” the Hebrew word for apples. When the younger sibling Max gets impatient, his Savta has some fun surprises up her sleeve. Jennifer Kirkham’s animated illustrations put readers right in the fall season activities. The back pages describe holiday traditions and include recipes for apple cake and caramel apples.
“Jonah’s Tale of a Whale”
By Barry L. Schwartz; Illustrated by James Rey Sanchez; Apples & Honey Press (ages 5-9)
This animated cartoon-like retelling of the ancient tale of Jonah will have kids turning the pages to follow along with the dramatic biblical story that is read aloud in synagogues on Yom Kippur.
Barry Schwartz and James Rey Sanchez team up for an age-appropriate, adventure-packed version of Jonah the prophet, who runs away on a ship instead of following God’s directive to warn the people of Nineveh to change their wicked ways. The captivating moral tale of forgiveness and kindness jumps off the page with touches of good humor.
“Starlight Soup: A Sukkot Story”
By Elana Rubinstein; Illustrated by Jennifer Naalchigar; Apples & Honey Press (ages 7-10)
Saralee Siegel is an adventure-loving, school-age girl with the magical sense of smell. Elana Rubinstein serves up a delicious tale for Sukkot, the seven day festival when Jews welcome guests to share meals in a sukkah, an open-roofed hut. In this lighthearted sequel to “Once Upon an Apple Cake: A Rosh Hashanah Story,” Saralee’s Zayde, the family patriarch of the popular Siegel House restaurant, asks her to create a new Sukkot recipe. But Saralee’s heavenly inspired soup recipe stirs a potful of trouble. What will she do to make it right? Jennifer Naalchigar’s black-and-white cartoonlike illustrations embellish the pages of this lively story. A welcome bonus is that the Jewish school scenes feature a racially diverse group.