Showing posts with label Hanukkah. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Hanukkah. Show all posts

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Simon and the Bear: A Hanukkah Tale, by Eric Kimmel (ages 5-9) -- a wonderful new holiday story

My students and I love sharing our favorite holiday stories, and this week we read a new Hanukkah story that's sure to become a favorite. I especially enjoyed our discussion afterward -- this story is rich with feeling and meaning, perfect for reading together.
Simon and the Bear
A Hanukkah Tale
by Eric Kimmel
illustrated by Matthew Trueman
Disney-Hyperion, 2014
Your local library
Amazon
ages 5-9
Young Simon is bound for America, with just his rucksack, a bit of food his mother packed, and a lot of determination--like many who have left their homes in search of work and opportunity. He's lucky, getting the last ticket on a ship leaving for America.
Simon "managed to get the very last ticket for a ship bound for America."
But Simon's luck ends quickly when his ship strikes an iceberg--ooh, just like the Titanic, many of my students said. After generously giving up his place in a lifeboat, Simon leaps onto the iceberg. When a giant polar bear approaches, Simon shares his food and makes a new friend. Is it a Hanukkah miracle that brings a friendly polar bear to Simon, or is it his caring, generous nature?
"He crept over to the bear and snuggled against her fur."
My students loved the way Eric Kimmel crafts this story. They shared many ideas about how Simon found the strength to endure this hardship. All of them noticed his courage, but they also noticed Simon's empathy, thinking about the man to whom he gave his place on the lifeboat. We talked about how Simon thought about what the polar bear might want, sharing his food with the bear--at school, we talk about this as listening with our ears, eyes and heart.

Eric Kimmel is one of my favorite authors--it would be fascinating to compare Simon to Hershel from Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins, a classic holiday story I love to read with students. Is Hershel brave and compassionate in the same way as Simon? If you like peering into how authors come up with their stories, check out Eric Kimmel's blog post he wrote just as he submitted Simon and the Bear to his editor.

The review copy was kindly sent by the publishers, Disney-Hyperion. All illustrations are copyright ©Matthew Trueman, 2014, and shared with permission of the publisher. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Holiday books to share with your children (ages 2 - 8)

Do you have any special holiday books that you read every year? Here are some of my favorites from this year. Some honor the spirit of giving, while others tell traditional religious stories from a child’s perspective. All celebrate the warmth, love and togetherness we feel during this time of year.

Who Built the Stable? A Nativity Poem
by Ashley Bryan
Simon & Schuster / Atheneum, 2012
ages 4 – 8
Amazon or your local library
Award-winning artist Bryan combines colorful, vibrant illustrations in strong, bold strokes with a touching poem about the Nativity story from a child’s point of view. The rhyming text follows a young shepherd who builds a stable for his animals and then invites Mary and Joseph to stay on this fateful night.

Daddy Christmas and Hanukkah Mama
by Selina Alko
Random House / Knopf, 2012
ages 4 - 8
Google preview
Amazon or your local library
Many families will relate to the way Sadie’s family blends different holiday traditions. They scatter Hanukkah gelt underneath the Christmas tree and hang candy canes from the menorah on the mantelpiece, focusing on the joy of spending time together.

The Christmas Quiet Book
by Deborah Underwood
illustrated by Renata Liwska
Houghton Mifflin, 2012
ages 2 - 6
Google preview
Amazon or your local library
San Francisco author Underwood teams again with Liwska to celebrate quiet, small moments, focusing on the many emotions that come with the holidays. “Reading by the fire quiet” and “listening for sleigh bells quiet” will bring readers back to those special moments we remember year-round. Here is a lovely preview of The Christmas Quiet Book from Google Books.



For more holiday books to share, head over to my article in this month's Parents Press. The review copy of Who Built the Stable came from our home library. Random House kindly sent a review copy of Daddy Christmas and Hanukkah Mama. Houghton Mifflin kindly sent a review copy of The Christmas Quiet Book. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books (at no cost to you!). Thank you for your support.

Review ©2012 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Sydney Taylor Book Award: honoring books that portray Jewish experiences

Every year, I am excited to see the books selected for the Sydney Taylor Book Award by the Association of Jewish Libraries. This award "honors new books for children and teens that exemplify the highest literary standards while authentically portraying the Jewish experience." This award is in honor of Sydney Taylor, author of The All-of-a-Kind Family, a classic series about an immigrant Jewish family in New York City in the early 1900s.

I'd like to highlight a few books from their list this year that particularly struck me as having wonderful appeal to children and families:

Chanukah Lights
by Michael Rosen and Robert Sabuda
MA: Candlewick, 2011
ages 7 - 10
2012 Sydney Taylor Book Award for Younger Readers
available at your local library, favorite bookstore and on Amazon
Michael Rosen and Robert Sabuda are honored with the 2012 gold medal in the Sydney Taylor Book Award’s Younger Readers Category for Chanukah Lights, an intricate cut paper pop-up book that celebrates Jewish history and the Chanukah holiday. Barbara Bietz, Chair of the Sydney Taylor Book Award Committee, said: “From the shtetl to skyscrapers, the white pop-up scenes against a background of deep rainbow colors illuminate Jewish life for the eight nights of Chanukah. Together, children and adults will marvel at the stunning scenes that magically unfold with each turn of the page.”
Naamah and the Ark at Night
by Susan Campbell Bartoletti
illustrations by Holly Meade
MA: Candlewick, 2011
ages 4 - 8
2012 Sydney Taylor honor award
available at your local library, favorite bookstore or on Amazon
As Noah’s wife Naamah, a beautiful singer, calms the animals, her husband and children with soothing lullabies, she brings peace to the storm-wracked ark. Bartoletti's lyrical text is perfectly paired with Meade's collages. Children will love looking at all the animals in the ark, especially seeing them paired with different constellations in the night sky.
When Life Gives You OJ
by Erica S. Perl
NY: Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2011
ages 8 - 12
2012 Sydney Taylor honor award
available at your local library, favorite bookstore or on Amazon
I had so much fun reading this heartwarming, funny book this summer. Zelly Fried wants a dog more than anything, but her parents aren't convinced. When her eccentric grandpa Ace leaves her a note tied to an old orange juice jug, she's the one who isn't quite convinced. Ace has cooked up a plan for Zelly to have a "practice dog" to prove to her parents that she really is ready to take on the responsibilities of owning a dog. Zelly's family is one of the few Jewish families in her Vermont neighborhood, and her grandfather's dialog is full of Yiddish phrases.
Hammerin' Hank Greenberg
by Shelley Sommer
PA: Calkins Creek, 2011
ages 11 - 14
2012 Sydney Taylor honor award
available at your local library, favorite bookstore or on Amazon
Sommer weaves together the story of Hank Greenberg, the first Jewish baseball star, with the history of America during the 1930s and 1940s in this accessible biography for tweens and teens. I really enjoyed reading this biography, and will review it in depth tomorrow.

If you are interested in these and other books about the Jewish experience, you'll definitely want to check out the blog tour to celebrate the Sydney Taylor Book Awards. Below is the full schedule:

THE 2012 SYDNEY TAYLOR BOOK AWARD BLOG TOUR
SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 5, 2012

Susan Campbell Bartoletti, author of Naamah and the Ark at Night
Sydney Taylor Honor Award winner in the Younger Readers Category
at Ima On & Off the Bima

Holly Meade, illustrator of Naamah and the Ark at Night
Sydney Taylor Honor Award winner in the Younger Readers Category
at Into the Wardrobe

Shelley Sommer, author of Hammerin' Hank Greenberg, Baseball Pioneer
Sydney Taylor Honor Award winner in the Older Readers Category
at Great Kid Books

MONDAY, FEBRUARY 6, 2012


Marcia Vaughan
, author of Irena's Jar of Secrets
Sydney Taylor Honor Award winner in the Older Readers Category
at Shelf-Employed

Ron Mazellan
, illustrator of Irena's Jar of Secrets
Sydney Taylor Honor Award winner in the Older Readers Category
at The Children's War

TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 7, 2012


Trina Robbins
, author of Lily Renee, Escape Artist: From Holocaust Survivor to Comic Book Pioneer
Sydney Taylor Honor Award winner in the Older Readers Category
at Bildungsroman

Anne Timmons (and possibly Mo Oh), illustrators of of Lily Renee, Escape Artist: From Holocaust Survivor to Comic Book Pioneer
Sydney Taylor Honor Award winner in the Older Readers Category
at Gathering Books

Morris Gleitzman, author of Then
Sydney Taylor Honor Award winner in the Teen Readers Category
at The 3 R's

WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 8, 2012

Michael Rosen, author of Chanukah Lights
Sydney Taylor Book Award winner in the Younger Readers Category
at A Chair, a Fireplace, and a Tea Cozy

Robert Sabuda
, illustrator/paper engineer of Chanukah Lights
Sydney Taylor Book Award winner in the Younger Readers Category
at Practically Paradise

Susan Goldman Rubin
, author of Music Was It: Young Leonard Bernstein
Sydney Taylor Book Award winner in the Older Readers Category
at Cynsations

Robert Sharenow
, author of The Berlin Boxing Club
Sydney Taylor Book Award winner in the Teen Readers Category
at Jewish Books for Children

THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 9, 2012


Durga Yael Bernhard, author & illustrator of Around the World in One Shabbat
Sydney Taylor Honor Award winner in the Younger Readers Category
at Frume Sarah's World

Shirley Vernick, author of The Blood Lie
Sydney Taylor Honor Award winner in the Teen Readers Category
at The Fourth Musketeer

FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 10, 2012

Eric Kimmel, author of The Golem's Latkes
Sydney Taylor Notable Book, and winner of the National Jewish Book Award
at Ann Koffsky's Blog

Gloria Spielman, author of Marcel Marceau, Master of Mime
Sydney Taylor Notable Book, and finalist for the National Jewish Book Award
at Shannon and the Sunshine Band

Richard Michelson, author of Lipman Pike: America's First Home Run King
Sydney Taylor Notable Book, and finalist for the National Jewish Book Award
at Blue Thread

Sydney Taylor Award Winners – Wrap-Up
All winners, all categories
at The Whole Megillah

Monday, December 7, 2009

Celebrating Hanukkah around the world - books to share with young readers (ages 5 - 9)

As we approach celebrating Hanukkah, I wanted to share two special books that focus on celebrating Hanukkah around the world.  Holidays celebrate our traditions within our own family, and also help us feel connected to the broader world as we see how our traditions can have common threads across many places and cultures.  Both of these books help us look at how Hanukkah is a part of people's lives in different places.
Celebrate Hanukkah: With Light, Latkes, and Dreidels
part of the Holidays Around the World series
by Deborah Heiligman
DC: National Geographic, 2008
ages 5 - 9
Heiligman has written an excellent series for National Geographic, exploring how many different holidays are celebrated around the world.  In this volume, she begins with a simple, clear retelling of the Hanukkah story.  But most of the book explores how Hanukkah is celebrated around the world, in places as such as Poland, South Korea, Uganda and Peru.  The full-page photographs depict children and adults lighting candles, reciting prayer, and playing dreidels.  I especially like how Heiligman uses "we" throughout - it provides the feeling of community and commonality.  For example, next to a picture of a young boy in Uganda, Heiligman writes: "It is important to tell everyone about the miracle.  We want to show everyone we are proud to be Jewish.  We are glad that we are free to practice our religion."  The text and photographs help us see that Jewish people around the world, living in many different countries, all celebrate the holiday in much the same way.
Harvest of Light
by Allison Ofanansky and Eliyahu Alpern
MN: Kar-Ben Pub., ©2008.
ages 5 - 8
Harvest of Light is a delightful book to read at this time of year, as it puts Hanukkah in context as a celebration of the end of the harvest season.  Beginning in springtime, a young Israeli girl tells the story of how her family grows and harvests olives, and then turns them into olive oil. The family works together throughout the harvest, first picking green olives for preserving. "As Hanukkah approaches, the olives start to turn black and shiny with oil."  These olives are then harvested and brought to a local press to extract the oil.  The story culminates with Hanukkah celebration. As her Abba (father) pours their oil into the menorah, "he reminds me it is the same kind of oil that was used to light the Temple menorah in Jerusalem long ago."  The photographs bring readers right to this young girl's life.

This simple story radiates with warmth and family togetherness, creating a new perspective on Hanukkah.  Harvest of Light was listed as a Notable Book by the 2009 Sydney Taylor Book Award for Jewish children's literature.  You can see a preview of much of the book on Google Books.

For more reviews of nonfiction books, check out the Nonfiction Monday roundup at Rasco from RIF!

The review copy came from my local public library. You can find these at your local library by searching WorldCat for Celebrate Hanukkah or Harvest of Light. If you make a purchase by clicking through to Amazon, Great Kid Books receives a small percentage, which will be used to buy more books to review.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Celebrating holidays - with family and neighbors (ages 5 - 10)


Winter holidays are soon here, and this season I would like to share with you several holiday stories that stand out above the rest, stories that are worth searching for at bookstores or the library.  Two of my favorites to share with children in grades 2 through 5 are The Trees of the Dancing Goats, by Patricia Polacco, and One Candle, by Eve Bunting.  Both are warm, loving stories that celebrate family and community, while sharing some of the deeper moments of holidays.
The Trees of the Dancing Goats
by Patricia Polacco
NY : Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, ©1996
ages 5 - 9
When young Tricia's neighbors come down with Scarlet Fever, her family is worried. It's the middle of winter, and Tricia's family celebrates Hanukkah, following her Russian grandparents' traditions. It's an exciting time, as her grandmother hand dips candles for Hanukkah, and her grandfather carves little wooden animals as a present for the children. But when they realize that their neighbors won't be able to celebrate Christmas properly because they are so sick, Tricia's family reaches out to help.  They bring their neighbors meals, Christmas trees, and even decorations. It's a lovely tale of friendship, sharing and community, based on Patricia Polacco's own childhood memories.
One Candle
by Eve Bunting
illustrated by K. Wendy Popp
NY: Joanna Cotler Books, 2002.
ages 8 - 10

One Candle, by Eve Bunting, is a soft, powerful tale that is very evocative for me.  A family gathers together to celebrate Hanukkah, and Grandma brings a potato as she does every year.  When she was younger, the narrator thought this potato was to make latkes.  But now she realizes that it's so that Grandma and Great-Aunt Rose can tell the story of surviving the Holocaust. In a concentration camp, they stole a potato at tremendous risk, and lit the Hanukkah candle using a bit of margerine and a thread.  As the young girl today wrestles with hearing this story, she thinks, "But I think it has to do with being strong in the bad time and remembering it in the good time." While it discusses the Holocaust, it's a good introductory book, never naming the concentration camps as such, but talking about it as a bad time.

I look forward to sharing more holiday books in the coming weeks.  Do you have any favorites you love to share with your children?  Please let me know!

Both review copies came from my public library.  Search for them at your public library using WorldCat: Trees of the Dancing Goat and One Candle.  If you make a purchase by clicking through to Amazon, Great Kid Books receives a small percentage, which will be used to buy more books to review.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Holiday tales

The Trees of the Dancing Goats, by Patricia Polacco
New York : Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, c1996.
ages: 5 - 8

One Candle, by Eve Bunting
[New York] : Joanna Cotler Books, c2002.
ages: 8 - 10

The Power of Light, by Isaac Basheivis Singer
New York : Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 1980.
ages: 9 - 12
out of print, but available used or at the library

The Trees of the Dancing Goats, by Patricia Polacco, is a wonderful holiday story about Patricia Polacco's childhood, and the year that all her neighbors came down with Scarlet Fever. The young narrator's family celebrates Hanukkah, following her Russian grandparents' traditions. But when they realize that their neighbors won't be able to celebrate Christmas because they are so sick, they cut down many small Christmas trees, decorate them and bring them to their neighbors' houses. It's a lovely tale of friendship, sharing and community.

One Candle, by Eve Bunting, is a soft, powerful tale that is very evocative for me - telling the story of the grandmother's memories of surviving the Holocaust. My favorite sentence is when the narrator answers the question, Why does Grandma want to do this every year: "But I think it has to do with being strong in the bad time and remembering it in the good time." While it discusses the Holocaust, it's a good introductory book, never naming the concentration camps as such, but talking about it as a bad time. ...

The Power of Light, by Isaac Basheivis Singer, is a collection of eight stories for Hanukkah. I especially love the title story in this collection, "The Power of Light". It tells the story of a teenage girl and boy who are caught in the Warsaw Ghetto, hiding in a bombed basement. David forays out and brings back a bit of food and a light for Hanukkah. This gives Rebecca the courage to escape with David to the forests and the partisans who will help them. My favorite line is, "That glimmer of light awakened in us a hope and strength we didn't know we possessed."