Back in the day, my mother-in-law used to tell me that books were her favorite cure for any ailment, and even all these years later, I can still hear her voice echoing in my head. There is something magical about being able to touch physical pages and turn them one by one as a narrative unfolds, especially today when even toddlers have grown quite adept at navigating icons on smartphones and tablets.
So as Chanukah draws near, make some space on your bookshelf for some of these great reads. Not only will your kids enjoy them, but you might just find yourself wanting to read them as well.
From My Heart
Esty Perman (Hachai)
More than just a nice story told on laminated pages that will hold up to not-so-gentle fingers, From My Heart has a sweet-faced girl describing the joy that her daily conversations with Hashem bring on both good days and bad. In addition to being an enjoyable read, this book gives little ones a valuable gift by showing them that their direct connection to Hashem can make a difference in their lives, as well as those of others.
And So Is Hashem
Aura Dweck (Hachai)
The charming illustrations may be what pulls your children in when they first read And So Is Hashem, but as they go through this book again and again, they will be enchanted by its recurring message that while they may be small, they can make a big difference in the world by helping others. Warning: Your child will probably ask you to read this one multiple times, but given its relatively short length, you probably won’t mind.
Let’s Stay Healthy
Bracha Goetz (The Goetz Bookshop)
With so many colorful and enticing treats, it isn’t always easy for children to make good food choices, but Let’s Stay Healthy makes nutrition kid-friendly. Also addressed here are other healthy habits, including dental hygiene, exercising, hand-washing, and getting enough sleep. The colorful illustrations here are appealing to further encourage kids to do the right thing.
My First Numbers Through a Jewish Lens;
My First Book of Jewish Holidays
Dafne Zivan (Hashem’s Gems Publishing)
While they may be years away from reading, toddlers are ready to learn – and these sturdy board books have plenty to offer. Colorful pictures and happy faces teach all about counting and the yomim tovim, and despite their relatively short length, your child will spend plenty of time soaking up all the information contained in either of these two books.
Mitzvah Guess Who
Ariella Stern (Hachai)
Ariella Stern is back with another lift-the-flap book, this one teaching all about mitzvos. Children will delight in discovering the hidden pictures, while also learning all about kashrus, staying safe, lashon hara, Shabbos, and honoring their parents. Inviting illustrations ensure that the fun factor never dips, even if the flaps get torn by overly zealous little fingers.
613 Torah Avenue: Sefer Vayikra
Cheryle Knobel and Rivkah Neuman (Judaica Press)
The iconic Torah Avenue series continues its odyssey from audio to print, this time tackling Sefer Vayikra. With laminated pages and a CD of the original classic recording, this book teaches even little kids about parshiyos they aren’t likely to encounter in elementary school. Whether you grew up with Torah Avenue or not, this series is one your kids will love, and one they will likely never forget.
The Big Book of Middos Books – 6 Books In 1
Various authors (ArtScroll)
The nostalgia factor is huge in this collection of six classics, ready to delight yet another generation and teach all about the importance of good middos. Arrogant Ari Learns a Lesson, Eli and His Little White Lie, Dovy and the Surprise Guests, Benjy’s Room, The Secret of the Leaves, and Farmer Greenfield’s Big City Adventure are as timeless as ever and a wonderful addition to your home library.
The Prince Who Forgot
Rabbi Mendel Moscowitz (Feldheim)
Using a parable to drive a point home, The Prince Who Forgot shares the story of a prince who is sent on a mission by his father but is derailed by newfound temptations. The parallel to our own lives is brought out clearly as the book retells Prince Julius’s story a second time, this time reminding readers of their own regal lineage and their responsibilities to live Torah lives.
Penina Farina and the Humongous Snowstorm
Fradl Adams (Menucha)
Just the name of this adorable chapter book will draw young readers into Penina’s whimsical world. Kids will love venturing into Catchupspill Valley and seeing how the perfect storm of Pesach, a blizzard, and piles of pasta all come together in one giant mitzvah.
Jewish Life in America on the Lower East Side
Meish Goldish (Menucha Classroom Solutions)
Another great volume in Menucha’s The Way it Was series, Jewish Life in America on the Lower East Side is both engaging and educational. The descriptions of life on the bustling Lower East Side gives readers a real taste of how people lived 100-plus years ago. The pictures of the area, some current and some decades old, make the story pop even more.
The Story of Yosef Mokir Shabbos
Simcha Shapiro (Feldheim)
Even little kids can grasp the concept of honoring Shabbos and the timeless story of Yosef Mokir Shabbos comes to life in this book, part of the Stories from Chazal Series. Beautiful illustrations will have your kids leafing through this one gleefully, but fear not – the sturdy, laminated pages are made to stand the test of time.
The Feeling Friends in Sunshine Forest
Devorah Benedict (Feldheim)
Don’t be fooled by the adorable illustrations and comic strip: The Feeling Friends in Sunshine Forest teaches young readers valuable lessons, boosting their self-confidence, and showing them how to put a positive spin on things. A page after each story gives kids tools to navigate difficult situations, but in a fun and upbeat way.
Genendel Krohn (Feldheim)
A collection of 18 true stories on various parts of Pirkei Avos, Ma’aseh Avos gives readers a new view of the timeless lessons brought down in the Mishna. While some of the stories take readers way back in time, others are current. Rest assured that all are very relatable and will give kids some serious food for thought.
The Surprise Carnival
Rochel Burstyn (Judaica Press)
One of the great things about short-story collections is the ability to read bits and pieces at your leisure, and The Surprise Carnival will have kids coming back for more whenever they have a few spare minutes. Readers will love the mixed messages that occur when a phone accidentally falls into a bowl of Jello, as well as the skunk in a shteibel on Shavuos night, and an assortment of tales narrated by inanimate objects including a stray sock. There is something for everyone here and these stories are all short enough to read aloud to younger kids at bedtime.
(Living Lessons – Hachai)
It’s hard not to be impressed by My Parshah, a 300-plus page, full-color book that spans all five Chumashim. Published by Living Lessons, whose Yahadus curriculum series was endorsed by Rav Shmuel Kaminetsky, My Parshah provides readers of all ages with takeaways they can incorporate into their daily lives instead of the typical overview often seen in parsha books. Each two-page spread features dual themes relating to the parsha, and while the relatively brief length is short enough to read aloud to preschoolers, this book is aimed more at older readers, with enough content here to appeal to that age group. Be sure to check out the beautiful maps in the back showing the wanderings of Avraham and Sarah, Yitzchak and Rivka, Yaakov and the 12 tribes, and Moshe Rabbeinu.
Too Many Secrets
Libby Lazewnik (Feldheim)
The talented and prolific Libby Lazewnik does it again, this time with a story of Rivi, who faces some unexpected circumstances after moving to a new town. Balancing old friendships while trying to make new ones is no small feat, especially when you throw in a string of unsolved robberies and a missing child.
Secrets of Ramoni Manor
Y.M. Hodgbi (Menucha)
What do you get when you combine suspense and intrigue with a yeshiva located in a historic mansion on the frozen Alaskan tundra? Secrets of Ramoni Manor has all that and more, with 13-year-old Eli Mink and his buddies spending a year learning and solving a dark mystery at Yeshiva Kesser Dan. This fun novel has Harry Potter-esque vibes, with a sequel already in the works.
Yehuda Cahn (Menucha)
We’ve all known that kid who thinks that the world revolves around him and often forgets that his words can have a negative impact on others. V.I.P. shares the story of one such 13-year-old who learns valuable lessons about thinking of others and letting someone else have his moment in the spotlight.