BOOKS FOR CHILDREN

Know of a children’s book addressing the diversity of the Jewish community? Please contact us with the information at info@jewishmultiracialnetwork.org.

 

A Turn for Noah: A Hanukkah Story
by By Susan Remick Topek, Illustrated by Sally Springer
(Preschool)
A simple story of a boy who learns to spin the dreidel, after much effort. One of the characters pictured (not Noah) is a Jewish boy of African descent.

 

Abuelita’s Secret Matzahs
by Sandy Eisenberg Sasso, Illustrated by Diana Bryer
(Elementary School)
In engaging, accessible language, Abuelita’s Secret Matzahs tells children the fascinating but little-known story of Crypto Jews, Jews forced to convert to Christianity during the Spanish Inquisition who secretly maintained their Jewish identity and customs throughout the ages?ften unaware of the reasons for some of these customs.

 

Always an Olivia
by Carolivia Herron, Illustrated by Jeremy Tugeau
(Ages 7-10, Grades 2-4)
An elderly black grandmother passes on the story of the family’s Jewish origins to her young granddaughter, Carol Olivia. As family members flee the Spanish Inquisition, are kidnapped by pirates and eventually sail to America, one daughter in each generation is given the name Olivia, from the Hebrew Shulamit meaning “peace,” to honor the Jewish part of their ancestry.

 

Black Mirror
by Nancy Werlin
(Ages 12-up)
Frances has always felt isolated at her New England prep school, but more so now that her brother has killed himself by overdosing on heroin. When Frances joins the social services charity her brother belonged to, she discovers that all is not as it seems, and realizes how little she really knew him. In this story, Frances is Japanese/white American and Jewish.

 

Bluish
by Virginia Hamilton
Bluish is unlike any girl 10-year-old Dreenie has ever seen. At school she sits in a wheelchair, her skin so pale it’s almost blue. Dreenie, herself new to the New York City magnet school, is fascinated by her, but wary as well. Unaware that the nick name Bluish could have derogatory connotations (“Blewish,” for Black and Jewish), she fixates on the moonlight blue skin tones of this curiously fragile child. Together with Tuli, a bi-racial girl who pretends to be Spanish (often with poignantly comical results), the three carefully forge a bond of friendship, stumbling often as they confront issues of illness, ethnicity, culture, need, and hope.

 

Celebrate Hanukkah With Light, Latkes, and Dreidels
by Deborah Heiligman
Part of National Geographic’s holidays around the world series, with photos of African and Asian Jews, among others, and a latke recipe at the end.

 

Chag Sameach: A Jewish Holiday Book for Children
by Patricia Schaffer
Photographs show Jewish families celebrating Jewish holidays. The pictures include multiracial families through intermarriage and adoption. Includes a girl reading torah, a boy in a wheelchair eating matzo and a toddler lighting Chanukah candles.

 

Chloe Leiberman (Sometimes Wong)
by Carrie Rosten
(Teens)
A novel about a Chinese Jewish girl’s obsession with fashion.

 

Clap and Count! Action Rhymes for the Jewish Year
by Jacqueline Jules, Illustrated by Sally Springer
(Preschool)
Clapping, counting rhymes, musical rhymes and fingerplays introduce Shabbat and Jewish holidays to preschoolers in a participatory way. Includes pictures of children of color.

 

Daughters of the Ark
by Anna Morgan
(Ages 10 and up)
Tells the story of Debritu, a 14-year-old Ethiopian Jewish girl who, together with her two younger brothers, makes her way across miles of hostile and dangerous country before finally arriving in Israel in 1984, during Operation Moses.

 

Day of Delight, A Jewish Sabbath in Ethiopia
by Maxine Rose Schur
(Elementary School)
Fascinating in its detail about one ethnic/religious group in Africa, this story tells about children in a traditional Jewish family in a small village.

 

Elijah Angel: A Story for Chanukah and Christmas
by Michael Rosen, Illustrated by Aminah Brenda Lynn Robinson
(Elementary School)
An Ashkenazi Jewish boy befriends an elderly African American barber, who is also a woodcarver. The barber makes the boy a special gift for the holidays. Based on a true story.

 

Four Sides, Eight Nights: A New Spin on Hanukkah
by Rebecca Tova Ben-Zvi, Illustrated by Susan Natti
(Elementary School)
Four sides of a toy, eight nights of celebration, forty-four candles burning in honor of an ancient miracle, two-thousand-one-hundred-seventy-some years of Hanukkah — everything you ever wanted to know about the Hanukkah holiday, centered of the children’s game of dreidel (a spinning top). Jokes, history, customs, trivia, science facts (just how fast does a dreidel spin?) come to life with wacky and informative illustrations throughout. (Depicts Jewish children of color.)

 

God’s Paintbrush
by Sandy Eisenberg Sasso, Illustrated by Annette Compton
(Elementary School)
Written by a rabbi, the book is intended to speak to all children about the many meanings of God. Children of all races are seen playing and working together.

 

Harriet and the Promised Land
by Jacob Lawrence
(Elementary School and Middle School)
The story of Harriet Tubman as the Moses of her people, is told in beautiful verse and illustrated through exquisite paintings by the famous African American artist.

 

I Love Jewish Faces
by Debra Darvick
(Ages 5 and under)
In 94 words and thirty-plus captivating photographs, I Love Jewish Faces turns the image of the Yiddishe punim on its head. Debra Darvick’s delightful picture book mirrors today’s Jewish community. Jews come in every shape, size and color. No matter where they come from or what they look like, their faces are Jewish faces, and their families are Jewish families. I Love Jewish Faces sings the song of Jewish diversity with passion, honesty, and joy. The book affirms identity, embraces diversity, and celebrates Jewish life. All in one remarkable little book.

 

It’s Challah Time! It’s Sukkah Time! It’s Hanukkah Time! It’s Purim Time! A Photographic Holiday Series
by Latifa Berry Kropf
Shows variety among the preschool children pictured.

 

Jalapeno Bagels
by Natasha Wing, Illustrated by Robert Casilla
(Elementary School)
A boy with an Ashkenazi Jewish father and a Latina Christian mother works with his parents in their bakery. The bakery serves chango bars, empanadas and challahs. The boy treasures jalapeno bagels, which bring the two parts of his heritage together. Includes recipes.

 

Jewish Holidays All Year Round: A Family Treasury
by Ilene Cooper
(Elementary School)
Illustrated with playful watercolors as well as color photographs of art and artifacts from New York City’s Jewish Museum, this book strikes a tone both child-friendly and respectful. Contains pictures of people of color.

 

Joseph, King of Dreams
by Dandi Daley Mackall
Stand-alone book or companion to Dreamworks Animation direct-to-video DVD of the same name. Both feature brown-skinned characters.

 

King Solomon and the Bee
by Dahlia Hardof Renberg, Illustrated by Ruth Heller
(a PJ Library book, ages 4 and 5)
Solomon was renowned for his wisdom. He was also famous as a magician, performing feats that others could neither explain nor understand. King Solomon was said to understand all of the world’s languages and, as examined in this book, he was said to converse with animals, an accomplishment some say he shared with the Queen of Sheba. Though a powerful ruler, Solomon gladly accepted help from the lowly bee in order to answer the queen’s thorny question.

 

King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba
by Blu Greenberg and Linda Tarry, Illustrated by Avi Katz
(Upper Elementary and Middle School)
An imaginative tale of the story of King Solomon and Princess Makeda from Ethiopia, who marries the Hebrew king and becomes the Queen of Sheba. Their bi-racial son, Ben LeHaham-Menelik sets off to meet his father in the land of Israel and then returns with many Jewish people to help him run his kingdom.

 

Let My People Go: Bible Stories by a Freeman of Color
by Patricia and Fredrick McKissack, Illustrated by James E. Ransome
(Middle School)
Hebrew Bible stories told from the point of view of an African American former slave to his daughter, drawing analogies between the Jewish slaves of Egypt and Black slaves of North America.

 

Let’s Talk About Race
by Julius Lester
(Grades 1-5)
This stunning picture book introduces race as just one of many chapters in a person’s story. Has drawings and descriptions of a person of color who is Jewish.

Maccabee Jamboree: A Hanukkah Countdown
by Cheri Holland, Rosalyn Schanzer
(Pre-School and Kindergarten)
A counting book describing how the children have fun during the eight nights of Hanukkah, making cards, exchanging gifts, chanting blessings, and singing songs. The main character is a Jewish boy of African descent.

 

Mrs. Katz and Tush
by Patricia Polacco
(Elementary School)
An elderly Ashkenazi Jewish woman is befriended by an African American boy. Tush is the cat they both come to love. (Also see CHICKEN SUNDAY and TREES OF THE DANCING GOATS.)

 

Nappy Hair
by Carolivia Herron, Illustrated by Joe Cepeda
(Elementary School)
This story affirms the life of an African American girl in all her splendor, including her hair. Written by a Jewish African-American author, the girl has an Uncle Mordechai, and mention is made of slavery in Egypt and in North America. Her hair is considered an ?ct of God. The illustrations are humorous and delightful.

 

No Rules for Michael
by Sylvia Rouss
(Pre-School and Kindergarten)
While studying the Ten Commandments Michael says he would rather there were no rules, but when his teacher gives him a day without rules, Michael learns an important lesson. (Depicts Jewish children of color).

 

Northern Lights: A Hanukkah Story
by Diana Cohen Conway, Illustrated by Shelly O. Haas
Due to an unexpected storm, an Ashkenazi Jewish girl spends the first night of Chanukah in a Yupik Eskimo village in Alaska by the frozen Bering Sea. She teaches them about the traditions of the Festival of Lights and learns about their traditions, culminating in seeing bands of color in the sky, called the Quiryak, the Northern lights.

 

Penny and the Four Questions
by Nancy E. Krulik, Illustrated by Marian Young
(Elementary School)
A lovely story about a U.S. Ashkenazi family that has Seder guests of a newly immigrated family from Russia. The girls make a meaningful connection, in which a young girl learns to appreciate the freedom and privilege of her life.

 

Queen Ester Saves Her People
by Rita Golden Gelman, Illustrated by Frane Lessac
(Elementary School)
This is a beautiful telling of the Purim story with vivid pictures of Jews in all shades of browns. The pictures also conjure up images of a time long ago which helps to give the children a sense of a far away time, and of a Persia as an ancient place.

 

Rebecca’s Journey Home
by Brynn Olenberg Sugarman
(Kindergarten – Grade 3)
The story of a Jewish-American family who adopts a child from Vietnam is recounted with warmth and sensitivity from the adoption procedure and the trip to Asia to the baby’s first Shabbat with her new family and her conversion and naming ceremony.

 

Reyna and the Jade Star
by Robin K. Levinson
(Ages 7 and up)
Part of the Gali Girls series, about a Jewish community living in Old China

 

Shoshana and the Native Rose
by Robin K. Levinson
(Ages 7 and up)
Part of the Gali Girls series, join Shoshana, a Brazilian Jew, as her budding friendship with an Indian girl reveals hidden biases, plunges her into danger, and spreads the light of Judaism where cultures collide.

 

Snow in Jerusalem
by Deborah da Costa, Illustrated by Cornelius Van Wright and Ying-Hwa Hu
(Elementary School)
A story of friendship between two boys, an Israeli Jew and a Palestinian, both who live in the old city of Jerusalem. Respectful pictures of Jews, Christians and Muslims in traditional religious garb.

 

Songs from the Garden of Eden: Jewish Lullabies and Nursery Rhymes
by Nathalie Soussana (Author), Paul Mindy (Author), Jean-Christophe Hoarau (Author), Beatrice Alemagna (Illustrator)
(Ages 2 – 7 years)
An extraordinary repertoire featuring 28 Jewish nursery rhymes, lullabies, and songs originating from the Ashkenazic, Sephardic, and Yemenite communities are collected by Nathalie Sousanna and admirably illustrated by Béatrice Alemagna. The lyrics in Hebrew, Judeo-Spanish, Yiddish, and Arabic are first reproduced in the original alphabets, then transcribed into Roman characters and translated into English. Additional notes on the origin and cultural context of each song as well as on the Klezmer music are also included.

 

Stealing Home
by Ellen Schwartz
(Upper Elementary to Middle School)
A black Jewish boy is getting to know the Jewish side of his family and becoming a Dodgers fan at the same time.

 

The Eight Nights of Chanukah
by Leslea Newman, Illustrated by Elivia Savadier
(Elementary School)
“On the first night of Chanukah…” begins the familiar tune in this book that sees the wondrous days of Chanukah through the eyes of young child. The child’s family grows bigger and bigger as the holiday gets closer and closer. Each night, one new item or person is added to the celebration-and there is always a present for every child in the room! (Depicts Jewish children of color).

 

The Moses Basket
by Jenny Koralek, Illustrated by Pauline Baynes
Feature illustrations of decidedly brown-skinned Jews.

 

The Story of Queen Ester
by Jenny Koralek, Illustrated by Grizelda Holderness
Characters look Persian with black hair and brown skin.

 

The Story of Shabbat
by Molly Cone, Illustrated by Emily Lisker
(Elementary School)
This is a description of the meaning of Shabbat, with pictures of Jews celebrating from around the world. It includes pictures of Asian and African Jews. In the back is a recipe for challah and description on how to make a challah-cover.

 

The Storyteller’s Beads
by Jane Kurtz, Illustrated by Michael Bryant
(Upper Elementary and Middle School)
Set in the mid-1980s, a time when Ethiopia is hard-hit by drought and political strife, Kurtz’s (Trouble) eye-opening novel charts the converging paths of two young natives fleeing from their country. Sahay, a Christian orphan, and Rahel, a blind Ethiopian Jewish girl, have been taught to be enemies, but discover they have much in common when they join a large group of refugees on their way to Sudan: both have suffered hunger and persecution, have been torn from their families and regret leaving their homeland.

 

What I Like About Passover
by Varda Livney
(Preschool)
In this board book, a little girl recites what she likes about this Jewish holiday, such as bright candles, the Seder plate, “crunchy matza,” and “being with all of you!” There is one concept per page except for the opening spread, picturing the lighting of the candles, and the last, showing a family at the Seder table. Illustrations include a light skinned family with a little brown-skinned boy.

 

What Makes Someone A Jew
by Lauren Seidman
(Ages: 3-6)
A vibrant and fun way for children to develop a broader knowledge of Judaism and the Jewish People, this book gently guides children down their own path of Jewish spiritual discovery and reminds us all that being Jewish is about our deeds, thoughts, and heart. (Quite a few of the photographs in the book are of JMN children!)

 

Zack
by William Bell
(Teens)
In this intriguing story that will appeal to younger teens, a boy goes on a journey in search of his roots. Zack is the son of an unlikely but happy marriage: his mother is a black blues singer and his father is a white Jewish college professor. Zack is resentful and bitter toward his parents for moving–in his last year of high school–from Toronto to a small college town in the country. He misses the excitement of the city, and things are rough at school, where he meets racial rejection for the first time in his life. Zack is comfortable with his Jewish heritage through his paternal grandparents, but his mother has without explanation cut off all contact with her relatives in Mississippi, so he knows nothing about his own black history. When he finds an old chest buried in the back yard and discovers that it belonged to a freed slave, his interest in exploring his African American background is piqued. While his parents are on a trip, he commandeers the family truck and drives to Mississippi to meet his grandfather. There Zack discovers a part of himself that he never knew, but he also must face the bitter understanding that racism can be a double-edged sword.