High Holiday children’s fare
By PENNY SCHWARTZ
BOSTON (JTA) — A giant googly-eyed fish, mischievous magicians and succah-eating squirrels are among the characters in a crop of engaging Jewish children’s books that relate to the observance or themes of the Jewish High Holidays. Here’s a rundown of the books:
Oh No, Jonah!
Tilda Balsley, illustrations by Jago
Kar-Ben, $17.95 hardcover; $7.95 paperback; $13.95 eBook
The story of Jonah read in the synagogue on Yom Kippur is retold by award-winning children’s writer Tilda Balsley in a lively, rhyming beat that will get the kids to listen. When the prophet Jonah refuses God’s request to persuade the people of Nineveh to change their wicked ways, he runs off to a ship, is tossed overboard and swallowed by a big fish. After Jonah prays for forgiveness, the fish spits him onto dry land and Jonah convinces the Ninevites to repent. Balsley’s verse, which features the refrain “Oh No, Jonah!,” opens the door for discussion about misbehavior, apologies and forgiveness without being overbearing. Jago’s colorful illustrations — the fish is a golden giant with a humongous mouth and large googly eyes — will have young readers wading into the plot. The artist won the National Jewish Book Award for his illustrations in “Nachshon Who Was Afraid to Swim.”
The Vanishing Gourds, A Sukkot Mystery
Susan Axe-Bronk, illustrated by Marta Monelli
Kar-Ben, $17.95 hardcover; $7.95 paperback
A PJ Library selection
“The Vanishing Gourds” is a lighthearted backyard mystery that captures the seasonal spirit of the joyous celebration of Succot, reflecting its appreciation of the natural world. Susan Axe-Bronk’s first children’s book is brightly illustrated by Marta Monelli. With Succot’s themes of gratitude, simplicity and appreciation of all things green, it’s no wonder the holiday is gaining popularity. In Axe-Bronk’s tale, readers meet Sara, a spirited young girl who loves to decorate the family succah with colorful and unusually shaped gourds from a local farm. But one year the gourds hanging from the roof slats mysteriously fall to the ground, scattering their seeds. At night, while Sara and her brother Avi are sleeping in the succah, they discover a family of squirrels eating the gourds. Sara dreams that the squirrel family apologizes, explaining that they were hungry. They promise to bring new gourds to Sara next year. In a heartwarming and happy ending, Sara discovers an unexpected gift the following Succot. Monelli’s large format illustrations reflect the colors of the season.