During quarantine, many of us can relate to the familiar Yiddish folktale about the husband and wife who live with their many children in a tiny, crowded, and noisy house. The man asks the rabbi what to do. The rabbi suggests that he bring in the cow. But now the house is more crowded and more noisy. So the rabbi tells the man to bring in his chickens, then his goats, geese, and ducks. Soon the man is overwrought. Finally, the rabbi says to take out all of the animals. And the man appreciates his quiet, spacious house.
Author Jill Ross Nadler has reimagined this popular tale about appreciating all that we have in a new setting: a modern-day library. Stevie tries to escape his noisy family by reading a book at the library. Ah, quiet. But the whoosh swoosh of pages turning, computer keys tapping, and the storyteller saying “Once upon a time” disturb Stevie’s peace. When he complains to the librarian that “It’s like a party in here,” she agrees and opens a book, magically releasing party balloons and horns. When Stevie complains that the library is like a zoo, the librarian opens another book and zoo animals appear. Children will love all the chaotic scenes that unfold, with Nadler’s playful text and Van Den Berg’s fun-filled, candy-colored illustrations.
Who couldn’t use a new bedtime book right now? In this lovely story, a young girl and her refugee family leave their home in the middle of the night and journey toward a new beginning. At every stop along the way, the little girl wishes “lilah tov”—good night—to the creatures and landscapes they pass. (“Lilah Tov to the roosters and hens/Lilah Tov to the bears in their dens.”) What could be a frightening journey turns into one of wonder and peace. Author Ben Gundersheimer (mistergsongs.com) is a Latin Grammy Award-winning artist, writer, activist, and educator. His sparse rhyming text blends beautifully with Israeli artist Noar Lee Naggan’s vivid illustrations.
As someone who was born with an English name (Cheryl) but proudly changed it legally to my Hebrew name, Chana (and also as someone who wrote a children’s book about hard-to-pronounce names), I thoroughly enjoyed “I Have a Jewish Name.” Writing in lively rhyme, author Rachel Vorst addresses where Jewish names come from, why we have them, what they mean, and why we should wear them with pride. Kids will enjoy looking for familiar names throughout the book and among the colorful “Hello, My Name Is…” name tags in the endpapers (or they can add their own). Some readers may need help with names written in Hebrew, which are not transliterated.