Best Books for Kids on Interfaith Jewish Books
In my neighborhood, interfaith Jewish families are not unusual and yet there is a real scarcity of books on this topic. I searched online and then asked my local librarians when my original list wasn’t at my library to come up with this list. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. And I hope children of all faiths can read and discuss some of these books.
NOTE: The good people at the Association of Jewish Libraries have a great list of Notable Children’s Books of Jewish Content for more book ideas!
10. Bubbe and Gram: My Two Grandmothers by Hawxhurst
A sweet and lovely picture book about two grandmothers who celebrate different holidays. The child’s dad’s mom is Jewish and the child gets to celebrate Jewish holidays with her. The other grandmother is Christian, and she’s Gram. It’s fun for the child to learn about being Jewish and Christian and each grandmother thinks that it’s great to learn more about the other grandmother’s religion. [picture book, ages 3-7]
9. Sam I Am by Ilene Cooper
Twelve-year-old Sam Goodman celebrates a mixture of Jewish and Christian holidays that starts to feel like a minefield after the “Hannukah Bush” — aka Christmas Tree — gets destroyed by the family dog. And things get more confusing when Sam has to write a report on the Holocaust at school. Finally, Sam decides he needs to have a little talk with God himself to figure this all out; is He listening? And can He talk back?! [chapter book, ages 9-12]
8. Kaddish for Grandpa in Jesus’ Name Amen by Catherine Stock
This gentle story is a Booklist Editor and Books for Youth Award Winner. The little girl’s beloved grandpa dies and her father who converted to Judaism takes her to a Christian service for him. Her daddy also remembers Grandpa in a Jewish way, but in the end, the little girl finds her own way to remember her Grandpa. [picture book, age 4-8]
7. Make a Wish, Molly by Barbara Cohen
Molly’s family has emigrated from Russia where they were not able to practice their religion freely as Jews. America is a tough adjustment for Molly but it becomes easier after she makes a new friend Emma. Unfortunately, Emma’s friend Elizabeth doesn’t like her. In this story, Emma gets to celebrate two birthdays: Emma’s in an American version and her own in a more traditional Russian way. She learns to appreciate both her mother and the special traditions they celebrate. [advanced picture book, ages 6-10]
6. Papa Jethro by Deborah Bodin Cohen
In this gentle picture book, a little girl named Rachel asks her grandfather why she goes to synagogue and he goes to church. Her grandfather explains by telling her the story of a famous interfaith family whose father, Moses, led the Jewish people out of slavery. During this time, Moses’ wife and children stayed with their grandfather, Papa Jethro, a Midianite priest, who was loving and wise influence on Moses and his family. An interesting, illuminating and true story. [picture book, ages 4-10]
5. Anne Frank by Josephine Poole
What is amazing about this book is that it manages to capture the Diary of Anne Frank plus the history surrounding WWII in a 40 page succinctly written picture book. And while this book tells the story very well, it is both moving but not overly upsetting. It’s the perfect balanced Holocaust story for grades 3-5. [advanced picture book, ages 8-12]
4. My Guardian Angel by Sylvie Weil
Winner of the Prix Scorcieres, France’s prestigious award for Children’s Literature, Sylvie Weil’s story about a Jewish Community threatened by Crusaders takes place in Troyes, France in 1096. It’s an interesting reminder that the persecution of Jews has taken place in many periods of history and in many lands. Elvina, a twelve-year-old girl gifted in herbal healing knowledge, makes a difficult choice when she is alone at home and three soldiers pound on her door, one of whom is wounded. [chapter book, ages 9-14]
3. The Devil’s Arithmetic by Jane Yolen
(From Publisher’s Weekly) When 12-year-old Hannah is transported back to a 1940’s Polish village, she experiences the very horrors that had embarrassed and annoyed her when her elders related their Holocaust experiences. [chapter book, ages 10-16]
2. Number the Stars by Lois Lowry
The 1990 Newbery Award Winning book tells the story of the Danish Resistance who evacuated 7000 Jews to Sweden, as told through the eyes of a 10-year-old girl, Annemarie Johannsen, whose family helps to smuggle her best friend’s family to safety. An inspiring story that reminds us that heroism exists in everyone. [chapter book, ages 9-14]
1.Milkweed by Jerry Spinelli
Only Newbery Award Winning author Jerry Spinelli. could manage to seduce readers into reading a harrowing tale of the Jewish Ghetto during the Holocaust as told from the point of view of a young, resilient, and extremely resourceful orphan boy. The story, while heartbreaking in its setting, is lyrically told such you can’t put the book down. [chapter book, ages 14 and up]
Interfaith Jewish Children’s Book Honorable Mentions
Elan, Son of Two Peoples by Heidi Smith Hyde, illustrated by Mikela Prevost
Based on the life of Solomon Bibo, he married the daughter of a former Acoma Pueblo chief. In this story set in 1898, their son, now thirteen, returns to the New Mexico after his Bar Mitzvah for the coming of age ceremony to become an Acoma tribesman. His mother’s words come back to him, “Always remember you are the son of two proud nations whose roots are as sturdy and deep as this oak tree.”
The endnotes reveal that Bibo was eventually appointed Pueblo governor and worked tirelessly for Native American rights. [picture book, ages 6 and up]
My Basmatic Bat Mizvah by Paula J. Freedman
During the fall leading up to her bat mitzvah, Tara (Hindi for “star”) Feinstein has a lot more than her Torah portion on her mind. Between Hebrew school and study sessions with the rabbi, there doesn’t seem to be enough time to hang out with her best friend Ben-O–who might also be her boyfriend–and her other best friend, Rebecca, who’s getting a little too cozy with the snotty Sheila Rosenberg. Not to mention working on her robotics project with the class clown Ryan Berger, or figuring out what to do with a priceless heirloom sari that she accidentally ruined. Amid all this drama, Tara considers how to balance her Indian and Jewish identities and what it means to have a bat mitzvah while questioning her faith.
With the cross-cultural charm of Bend It Like Beckham, this delightful debut novel is a classic coming-of-age story and young romance with universal appeal. [chapter book, ages 10 and up]
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