It’s important that children read and learn about Jewish culture and issues to help them grow up to be understanding and compassionate towards people of all cultures and backgrounds. Below are some great books for children 4 years old and up, all focusing on Jewish characters and issues.
Written by Ruth Vander Zee & Marian Sneider
Illustrated by Bill Farnsworth
Year after year, Eli watches the solemn lighting of seven candles at his family’s celebration of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. On such a happy occasion, his parents and grandparents always seem sad, and Eli can’t understand why.
Then one year Eli travels to Eastern Europe to learn more about his family history. There, he learns how the candles represent his family’s connection to the Holocaust in Lithuania, and how remembering his ancestors can help heal years of grief and shame.
This powerful story, illuminated by Bill Farnsworth’s sensitive brush strokes and muted palette, can be used as an introduction to World War II and the Holocaust, and will also remind young readers how they can make a difference in the lives of their families.
AWARDS and RECOGNITION
Florida Book Awards, Bronze Medal, Children’s
“The rich, textured oil paintings beautifully communicate the somber and serious mood of the text.”
— School Library Journal
“Simple, direct language follows Eli’s trajectory from puzzlement and ignorance to horrific realization and resolve.” — — Publishers Weekly
Ages 14 & up
Eva Schloss, Anne Frank’s playmate and posthumous stepsister was imprisoned in Auschwitz at the age of 15, her story did not end there. Together with her mother, Eva endured daily degradation and countless miseries at the hands of the Nazis. She was freed in 1945, but it would be decades before Eva was able to share her survivor’s tale with the world.
Full-color Illustrations Throughout
This is the story of how one man led his people out of slavery to a land that God had promised to give them. His name was Moses.
With vivid, richly detailed illustrations, Brian Wildsmith captures all the major events of one of the greatest stories in the Bible. The story of the Exodus and the rescue of the Hebrews from slavery in Egypt is a powerful and exciting tale which attests that God’s guiding hand is always evident.
In Wildsmith’s hands, this familiar journey comes alive against stunning backdrops–from the great palaces of ancient Egypt, to the vast expanses of Sinai’s mountains and wilderness, to the peaceful place God’s people can finally call home.
“As always, Wildsmith’s lush pen-and-watercolor paintings bring vivid detail to the story. The spreads range from panoramic views (of ancient Egypt) to composites of smaller scenes (Passover and the Plagues) to close-ups (Moses receiving the Ten Commandments). Gold borders around each spread and the dust jacket and rose-and-gold endpapers depicting replicas of the Ten Commandments add to the elegance of the presentation. A worthy companion to Wildsmith’s Joseph.” — Booklist
“The writing is straightforward and simple; the story is brief but accurate. The artwork is a visual feast. . . Filled with meticulous and decorative detail, glowing with rich colors, and arranged to maximize dramatic impact, the paintings show the awesome events with excitement and beauty.” — School Library Journal
The Last Fortress
Gloria D. Miklowitz
Ages 12 & up
In the year 72 C.E., after a four-year war between Rome and Judea, only one fortress remains to be taken: Masada, high above the Dead Sea in what is now Israel. Two years later, the commander of the famous Roman Tenth Legion, Flavius Silva, marches toward Masada to capture or kill the 960 Jewish zealots who hold it.
In this eloquent and powerful novel, we meet 17-year-old Simon ben Eleazar, son of the Jewish leader of Masada. Apprenticed too Masada’s only physician, Simon learns to help victims of the enemy’s onslaught as he struggles with his love for Deborah, the intended of his best friend, and with the painful decision he must ultimately make.
“Simon lives his final days with hope and trust in the faithfulness of God, and readers may well be inspired by his example to live their own lives with purpose in the face of all obstacles.” — Publishers Weekly
“Miklowitz personalizes history in this account of the fall of Masada as seen through the eyes of a young Jewish man helping to hold the fort, and of the Roman commander who is trying to foil the Jews’ last stand. . . The historical facts, a blend of the everyday and the dramatic, show how people can find hope, beauty, and even love in the midst of the most dire of circumstances — and how history is made up of real people, not so different from those reading about it. A powerful offering.” — Booklist
“Readers get deeply involved in the paradoxical suspense of doomed characters who nourish their lives — including romance, marriage, friendship, and ambition — in the face of death. . . History is sometimes simply sad, and Miklowitz has asserted that sadness without sensationalizing it or apologizing for it.” — The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books
The Story of Bodri
Written by Hédi Fried
Illustrated by Stina Wirsén
Translated by Linda Schenck
Hédi spends her days playing with her dog Bodri in the park, but her quiet world starts to crumble the day she hears Adolf Hitler on the radio. Germany’s leader hates her and her family, just because they are Jewish. And Hitler doesn’t even know them—it doesn’t make any sense. Soon Nazi Germany invades Hédi’s country, and her life changes forever.
Inspired by the author’s experiences, this book is a thoughtful introduction to the Holocaust for young readers. Strikingly honest prose and illustrations share an unforgettable story about a faithful dog, a family in danger, and the power of hope in unimaginable circumstances.
“Marked by memory and yearning, this is a powerful testimony to surviving, bearing witness, and leaning on unshakable love.” —Publishers Weekly
— Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“[Fried] speaks to a young audience in carefully chosen language, skillfully translated from Swedish by Schenck, telling just enough of the horrors to help them to a modicum of understanding in the hope that they will always choose good over evil. Wirsén’s liquid watercolors perfectly invoke that time and place and its emotional upheaval. . . . True and powerful in its simplicity.” — Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“This book walks the edge of what children can absorb about historical tragedies, while maintaining an outcome that is not too Pollyanna-ish, and it does this well.”— Booklist
The Story of Queen Esther
Full-color Illustrations Throughout
The ancient story of Queen Esther has been told for generations as an example of wisdom and great personal courage. Her bravery is still commemorated each year in the Jewish festival of Purim.
Now this well-known story of the Jewish girl who became the queen of Persia and saved her people from death is retold for young readers.
Bold, colorful Persian-inspired illustrations bring new vibrancy to this old story, which will captivate and inspire its young audience.
“The classic biblical story . . . is told with lucid intrigue, painting a picture of an evil rogue outwitted by the wisdom and courage of a loving Queen. Multiple scenes across full-page spreads, done in deep pastel colors of blues, purples and reds, portray an assortment of tall, handsome characters with lean, pointy-chinned faces, long, flowing hair and dark skin. A well-composed and aesthetic interpretation for the younger set.” — Kirkus Reviews
“Koralek’s telling is admirably brisk and dramatic, and she keeps sight of the core message: that Esther’s faith and sense of responsibility give her the courage to do the right thing. Holderness’s saturated, jewel-tone pastels, geometric lines and subtle patterning successfully meld once-upon-a-time with an exotic Far East. She also gives Esther star-studded raven tresses that reach all the way down to her calves—which, as any female member of the target audience will attest, is totally awesome.” — Publishers Weekly
The War within These Walls
Translated by Laura Watkinson
Ages 14 & up
It’s World War II, and Misha’s family, like the rest of the Jews living in Warsaw, has been moved by the Nazis into a single crowded ghetto. Conditions are appalling: every day more people die from disease, starvation, and deportations. Misha does his best to help his family survive, even crawling through the sewers to smuggle food. When conditions worsen, Misha joins a handful of other Jews who decide to make a final, desperate stand against the Nazis.
Heavily illustrated with sober blue-and-white drawings, this powerful novel dramatically captures the brutal reality of a tragic historical event.
AWARDS and RECOGNITIONS
Storytelling World Storytelling World Awards Honor Book (2015)
American Library Association/Association for Library Service to Children Notable Children’s Books List (2014)
American Library Association (ALA)
“A powerful, fictionalized memoir.” — Christian Library Journal