RuthE’s Picks from 2013

RuthE’s Picks from 2013

/ AJT // 

ThouShatlRead_AndThouShaltRead_LOGOA great year can’t be a great year without great books, and this year in the Jewish book world, we have had some really good ones to choose from for all ages.  Let’s start at the top, with books for the very youngest children.

Two books that I really loved this year were Thank You, Trees!, a board book by Gail Langer Korwoski and local author Marilyn E. Gootman, which teaches about the many gifts of trees and Tu B’Shevat, and The Torah Book of Opposites, that introduces children to basic concepts like open and closed through the Torah.  Its illustrations will make anyone smile!  Ages 2-5

Kar-Ben Publishing took a bold step out with the book, The Purim Superhero, whose super hero Nate has two dads.  Nate doesn’t want to fit the mold for Purim:  he wants to be a super hero.  This book has flown off my shelves!

Rachel Shifra Tal did a take-off on “if you give a mouse…” with If You give a Frog a Piece of Matzah.  Between the humorous story and the wonderful illustrations, this book is a must have for Passover.  Everyone will love it, even the adults!

Sammy Spider’s First Yom Kippur has to be on the list, if for no other reason than it completes the ever-popular Sammy Spider series of holiday books.  Katherine Janus Kahn’s magical illustrations and Sylvia Rouss’ Yom Kippur message of forgiveness combine perfectly for Sammy Spider’s 20th anniversary book.  Also out this year is Sammy Spider’s First Book of Jewish Holidays, with some new pictures and just the right words for the littlest ones.

Shabbat in the Playroom weaves all the elements of Shabbat into a delightful story about Shira, who wants to bring the Shabbat celebration into her home.  Too busy, her parents said no, so Shira took matters into her own hands and created Shabbat in her playroom.  This is a great book to enhance the family Shabbat celebration, complete with Hebrew blessings and songs, written by Galia Sabbag, a teacher at The Davis Academy.  Preschool – 2nd grade.

Israel: Repairing the World, presents the many amazing accomplishments by Israelis in the areas of medicine, computer technology, communications, the environment and many more.  Filled with colorful photographs, this is just the book to instill love and pride for Israel.  Great for ages 8-11.

The Longest Night, by our own Laurel Snyder, gives us a new viewpoint of the exodus from Egypt through the eyes of a slave girl.  Told in rhythmic poetry and bold illustrations, this book will enhance the family Passover celebration.  For ages 4-8.

Not really a book, but published by Penguin, is Hanukkah Mad Libs.  You’ll have lots of fun filling in the blanks of these silly narratives.

Getting to books for older kids, a bag of marbles tells the story of Joseph Joffo and how he and his brother used wits and courage to stay one step ahead of the Nazis.  It is done in the graphic novel format, very popular with young readers.  Ages 13-17

At last we have the companion to the “J-Girls’ Guide,”  The J-Guys’ Guide.  Touted as the “GPS” for Jewish teen  guys, it helps them find answers on courage, sex, friends, God, identity, and many more through the lens of Judaism without being preachy.  A great Bar Mitzvah gift.  Ages 13-17

For the Bat Mitzvah age, My Basmati Bat Mitzvah explores the challenges Tara Feinstein encounters trying to honor both of her cultures while celebrating her Bat Mitzvah.  She’s just “your average Jewish-Indian-American girl.”  Ages 10-14

Courage, rescue, mystery are words that sum up the story in His Name was Raoul Wallenberg.  Written poetry, Wallenberg’s life, and particularly his work to save the Jews of Hungary are woven around numerous pictures, giving life and dimension to the story.  The reader gets a sense of Wallenberg’s urgency to save the Jews from the Nazis, and a sense of helplessness for Wallenberg’s own fate.  This is a highly “readable” book about one of the important “Josephs” of the Holocaust era.   For ages 12 and up.

From award-winning author [Dr.] Miriam Brysk who wrote Amidst the Shadow of Trees comes another book, The Stones WeepAmidst the Shadow of the Trees is one of those “glued-to-your-face” books that recounts Dr. Brysk’s experiences as a young child surviving in the Russian forests with the partisans.  Her new book, The Stones Weep, builds upon her experiences as a Holocaust survivor and artist.  It features a collection of her art and lesson plans utilizing the art to help students understand the Holocaust in a new way.  For teachers, for artists, for people who want to study the Holocaust in a new dimension, The Stones Weep is an important book.

Not necessarily just for Jews: Kosher by Design Cooking Coach and Slow Cooking for Two by our own award-winning cook book author, Cynthia Graubart.   Although Kosher by Design Cooking Coach is written “Kosher style,” the techniques are great for any cook.  The pictures are wonderful as usual, and the recipes are great.  This is an important book for any cook’s kitchen.  On the other hand, Slow Cooking for Two is written for the general population.  It does have one shrimp recipe and there are a few instances of mixing meat with milk.  A clever cook can resolve these issues to adapt the book to the kosher kitchen to be able to enjoy great recipes using a crock pot and overcoming the barrier of only cooking for two.

Husband of Cynthia Graubart, Cliff Graubart has also had a big year with his book, the Curious Vision of Sammy Levitt.  With fresh vision, Graubart has us take another look at familiar experiences: love, endings and beginnings, bar mitzvah, sadness and longing, touching our hearts with his new tales of the American Jewish experience.

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