Kiddosphere: L’Chaim! Books for Jewish American Heritage Month
Since 2006, May has been designated Jewish American Heritage Month by presidential proclamation. We have many outstanding books about Jewish life and famous Jewish Americans, making it difficult to whittle my list down to a manageable size! Here are some of my top choices.
The shenanigans of five Jewish sisters growing up in early 1900’s New York has charmed generations since its publication in 1951. The family’s sweet, touching, and funny adventures continue in Sydney Taylor’s sequels to All-of-a-Kind Family.
Dave at Night is quite the personal story for Gail Carson Levine, as it was inspired by her father’s experience growing up in an orphanage for Jewish children. When Dave runs away from the Hebrew Home for Boys, he encounters a man who introduces him to the burgeoning culture of the Harlem Renaissance.
Want a rollicking and entertaining biography? It’s hard to top Escape! The Story of the Great Houdini. Written by the great Sid Fleischman, this is an incredible read of a larger-than-life character, the great magician Houdini.
Hank Greenberg was the first Jewish athlete superstar and faced opposition and discrimination along the way to becoming one of the greatest sluggers in baseball history (he never forgot what that was like, which made him one of the few MLB players to openly welcome Jackie Robinson to the leagues). Hammerin’ Hank: The Story of Hank Greenberg is an inspiring picture book biography of one of the sport’s great players. You Never Heard of Sandy Koufax? is another superb biography of a great Jewish-American baseball player.
Based on actual events, Hanukkah at Valley Forge is a beautiful account of a Jewish-American Revolutionary War soldier celebrating Hanukkah at one of the low points in the war, and how he taught General Washington about the downtrodden Jewish army’s victory over the powerful Greeks.
Although Levi Strauss Gets a Bright Idea isn’t an ideal choice for a homework report on Levi Strauss, its tall-tale feel makes for a super fun read aloud that celebrates American ingenuity.
On a Beam of Light: A Story of Albert Einstein is a fascinating picture book biography of the esteemed physicist. If you need an introduction to Einstein, this is the place to look!
Starring Sally J. Freedman as Herself is Judy Blume’s only historical fiction novel for children; personally, it’s my favorite from her work. Set just a few years after the end of World War II, ten-year-old Sally’s Jewish family is still dealing with the lingering shock felt by the revelations of the concentration camps, and dealing with the polio epidemic.
Finally, Who is Stan Lee? is one of our most popular Who Was/Who Is titles; there are few things better than a genuine American rags to riches story. Lee’s rise from lowly assistant at Timely Comics (which later became Marvel) to creator of the Hulk, Thor, Iron Man, the X-Men, and of course, Spider-Man, is one of the best rags-to-riches stories ever.
Looking for more program highlights and staff suggestions for children and young adult readers? Make Kiddosphere your source for all the latest on what to read and what to do for kids!
∼ Jennifer Schultz, Youth Services Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library