Even in today’s day and age where 2-year-olds seem to be able to navigate smartphones and tablets with ease, there is no denying the appeal of holding an actual book in your hands.
Whether it is a picture book that will have you snuggling with your toddlers and preschoolers for some well deserved quiet time where, a first grader proudly devouring a full volume on their own with no outside assistance, or older kids losing themselves in the world of literature, printed words have a timeless allure, making them a great choice for Chanukah gift giving. Here are some of the latest and greatest in the world of Jewish books that will keep your brood entranced and enchanted.
Light The Menorah by Tova Gitty Broide (Hachai) – While reading time with your toddler may involve more chewing on the pages than anything else, babies love books. With colorful, sweet illustrations that capture all the major elements of Chanukah including happy-faced kids, Light the Menorah is both educational and enchanting. More importantly, the rhymes are well thought out which means that you won’t mind when your cutie wants you to read this one over and over and over again.
3 to 4 Year Olds
What Do Peyos Do? by Tzipora Wolman (Feldheim) – A whimsical look into the mind of a boy turning three who wonders if peyos have special powers. As he charmingly ponders whether his peyos can turn into propellers that can have him flying in the air or can morph into an umbrella when the rains start coming down, our young friend comes to appreciate what having peyos is really all about.
Yes, I Can!* By Hindy Kviat and Chaya Leah Lefkowitz (Hachai) – Kids love to emulate the adults they see in their lives and the pages of this book are filled with practical ways for even the littlest of children to do very grown up things. As they go through Yes, I Can!¸kids come to understand that when they rush to help someone they are almost like firemen racing to the rescue, and when they make someone who is feeling bad smile, they are bona fide healers and practically doctors in training. Read this one to your kids and just see if it doesn’t have them looking for ways to be more thoughtful and helpful.
4 to 6 Year Olds
Step Into Those Shoes* by Brenda Weiss (Israel Bookshop) – The concept of never judging someone else until you’ve stepped into their shoes comes alive in this adorable book that has children coming to understand that their initial impressions of a situation may be completely wrong, thanks to the intervention of a clever shoemaker named Mr. Mo. Magically arriving on scene after something disappointing happens, Mr. Mo’s never ending supply of handmade shoes shows each kid how important it is to judge everyone favorably.
We Can Find A Way* by Dina Rosenfeld (Hachai) – There are so many great lessons in this book about welcoming guests. When assorted challenges repeatedly threaten to derail Bubby’s upcoming 70th birthday party, it seems like the festivities will never happen. But instead of throwing up their hands in despair when faced with problems including an allergic cousin and a wheelchair-bound guest, the family in this book puts their heads together, finding practical solutions to make everyone happy, a great way to teach about sensitivity and thinking outside the box.
Talking About Personal Privacy by Bracha Goetz (Feldheim) – These days, nothing can be more important than empowering our children by teaching them about personal safety. Addressing the topic of unwanted touching with sensitivity and positivity, Talking About Personal Privacy teaches kids to trust their instincts, to walk away from anyone who makes them feel uncomfortable and to speak to a trusted adult if anything inappropriate happens.
7 to 10 Year Olds
The Adventures of PJ Pepperjay 3 by Yehudis Backenroth (Feldheim) – He may not be able to get anything right but it’s hard not to love PJ Pepperjay, back again in two more stories with his wacky but lovable family that will keep kids of all ages entertained. This time around, PJ finds himself heading to Cleveland with a busload of supporters to compete in a Chumash bee despite not really knowing any of the material and breaking his leg just hours before the tzedakah bike-thon that he spent days organizing. Silly and adorably endearing, I confess that while I am definitely older than this book’s target audience, I couldn’t put it down till I turned the very last page.
The Secret of Carlos Romanus by Esther Kosofsky (Hachai) – History comes alive in this chapter book that takes kids back to the 17th century. Having learned in school about the difficulties that so many faced keeping to their religious roots, readers get a riveting glimpse of what life was like for secret Jews as they join a 15-year-old boy on a voyage that takes him from the high seas to Spain and Amsterdam as he tries to support his family.
The Story of The Chasam Sofer by Sarah Feldbrand (Israel Bookshop) – Fiction is always a great read, but nothing makes an impression like reading a biography of a well known historical figure, in this case, Rabbi Moshe Sofer, better known as the Chasam Sofer. From his early years that included finishing his first Gemara by age seven, to decades spent upholding Torah observance during a time when many were abandoning their religion, to earning a well deserved reputation as a miracle worker, kids will be fascinated as the educational spotlight shines on the Chasam Sofer.
Age 10 and Up
Kids Speak 10 by Chaim Walder (Feldheim) – The ever popular Kids Speak series is back again, with another collection of 14 short stories that speak directly to the younger generation. Written about kids, for kids, each one brings home important lessons in the relatable and entertaining way that has made this series a best seller for the past 24 years.
Step Into My Shoes by Tova Nessaiver and Danielle Sara Storch (Feldheim) – No matter what age you are, life can be complicated and figuring out how to cope with the bumps in the road isn’t always easy, especially for teens. Broken down into sections that address specific topics such as dealing with embarrassment, speaking positively and always being truthful, these short stories hit home and are followed with great tips for tackling personal challenges.
Among The Stars by Tova Shkedi (Israel Bookshop) – A futuristic adventure that has 200 Orthodox Jews heading into outer space to establish a Jewish community on a brand new planet, this page-turner is a fun ride that will keep readers glued to the edge of their seats. Multiple story lines have kids following Shifra, who wants nothing more than to go back home to Earth, Gavi and Kobi, whose quest for adventure has them stowing away on a sabotaged space shuttle, and a full cast of characters, all of whom are blissfully unaware of a nefarious plot to keep their spaceship from ever reaching its intended destination.
*Easy to clean and hard to rip laminated pages.