Stories are a great way to help children and young adults prepare for Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur. Here are 10 High Holiday-themed books to share with the kids in your life.
- Rosh Hashanah is Coming! by Tracy Newman is an ideal choice for the youngest children. A board book with a rhyming scheme and full-color, playful illustrations by Viviana Garofoli, it provides a quick introduction to the holiday’s special foods and rituals. Ages 1-4 (Kar-Ben Publishing, 2016)
- In Talia and the Very Yum Kippur by Linda Elovitz Marshall with illustrations by Francesca Assirelli, Talia hears “breakfast” instead of “break-the-fast,” prompting her to consider the difference between “yom” and “yum” and to make puns throughout the book. She also reflects on her own wrongdoings, just like adults do during this holiday. Ages 4-6. (Kar-Ben Publishing, 2015)
- Apple Days: A Rosh Hashanah Story, by Allison Sarnoff Soffer with bright, inviting illustrations by Bob McMahon, follows Katy, who loves the Rosh Hashanah tradition of apple picking with her family. But this year, her aunt is having a baby so the holiday doesn’t go quite as it has in the past. Ages 2-7 (PJ Library, Kar-Ben Publishing, 2014)
- In New Year at the Pier, Izzy has some trouble apologizing to people he has wronged during the year. When he finally does, he enjoys the tashlich ceremony on Rosh Hashanah, when we throw bread into water to symbolize our misbehaviors. April Halprin Wayland’s simple, poetic text and Stephane Jorisch’s watercolor illustrations compassionately explain the High Holiday theme of forgiveness. Ages 5-8. (Dial Books, 2009)
- You Never Heard of Sandy Koufax?!, Jonah Winter’s biography of Sandy Koufax, tells the story of one of the few Jews in professional baseball in his era, including how the pitcher refused to play on Yom Kippur. Winter’s illustrations are striking, and moving the cover in just the right way reveals Koufax throwing a pitch. Ages 7-8 (PJ Library, Random House, 2009)
- Tashlich at Turtle Rock follows Annie and her family as they hike to a spot for Tashlich, the Rosh HaShanah ceremony in which Jews symbolically toss their misdeeds into a body of water. At each stop along the way, they remember good and not-so-good things from throughout the year. Alex Steele-Morgan’s bold color illustrations accompany Susan Schnur’s text. Ages 5-9 (Kar-Ben Publishing, 2010)
- Engineer Ari and the Rosh Hashanah Ride by Deborah Bodin Cohen with illustrations by Shahar Kober tells the story of the first train ride from Jaffa to Jerusalem in 1892. Ari, the train’s engineer picks up items for Rosh Hashanah at each stop along the way, teaching readers about the Jewish New Year and one facet of Israel’s history, too! Ages 5-9 (PJ Library, Kar-Ben Publishing, 2009)
- The Secret Shofar of Barcelona by Jacqueline Dembar Greene and illustrated by Doug Chayka features Don Fernando, a converso – a Jew hiding his Jewish identity. Conducting a concert on Rosh Hashanah that celebrates the Spanish colonies, he secretly arranges for the shofar to be blown during the concert. The book includes an introduction and historical context. Ages 5-9 (PJ Library, Kar-Ben Publishing, 2009)
- The Barefoot Book of Jewish Tales by Shoshanna Boyd Gelfand and illustrated by Amanda Hall is a collection of classic folk tales, including “The Boy Who Prayed the Alphabet,” a lovely story about Natan who, although he possesses learning challenges and is unable to read, prays with great intention and sincerity, nonetheless, expressing himself fully and beautifully. Readers may recall Barbara Cohen’s Yussel’s Prayer, as well as versions of the “Alphabet” story told by Peninnah Schram and others. Ages 2-12+ (Barefoot Books, 2013)
- The Freak by Carol Matas is the first in a three-book series – perfect for teens who often can’t get enough of a plot and characters they have grown to know and love. Matas tells the story of 15-year-old Jade, who develops unwanted psychic powers after a bout with meningitis and deals with the bombing of a synagogue by skinheads during the High Holidays, among other adventures. Ages 12+ (Key Porter Books, 2007)
Happy reading and happy new year!
Looking for adult books for the High Holidays? Check out this list.
Rachel Simon, a library school student, is an intern in the library at Temple Israel in Boston, MA. Librarian Ann Abrams assisted in compiling this list.
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