It’s time for school again, but it’s not always easy to get kids back into the reading habit if they’ve been doing other activities all summer. Here, then, to re-engage little minds are a few Kar-Ben books you’ll find either in bookstores or online. These picks can also serve as terrific reading-together opportunities for National Grandparents Day on Sunday, Sept. 10.
‘Koala Challah’ by Laura Gehl, Kar-Ben Publishing
This quite cute book is set in Australia, where the koala family is a traditional Jewish family. Lila wants to make challah for the forthcoming Shabbat and ends up practicing nightly to make it just right. Parents can use this book to talk about trying to accomplish things and not giving up.
This is really a cute and different theme meant for children ages 2 to 7.
Laura Gehl, who has written a number of picture books for children, lives in Chevy Chase, Maryland, with her husband and four children. They visited Australia a little over a year ago. She also is a former science and reading teacher, and writes science materials for adults and children.
Freelance illustrator and artist Mary Mola was born in Barcelona and now lives in Chicago with her husband and two children. She illustrates children’s books with detailed backgrounds and colorful characters.
‘The Cholent Brigade’ by Michael Herman, Kar-Ben Publishing
Cholent is a traditional Jewish stew made on Friday and left in an oven to simmer all night to be eaten for Sabbath lunch on Saturday. It is made by European Jews and is mentioned as early as the 12th century; Jews of Middle Eastern and North African origins make a similar dish.
Monty Nudelman shovels driveways when it snows, but when Shabbat came, he could not come out because he hurt his back, so the neighborhood children bring him cholent for lunch. A recipe for cholent is at the end of the book.
This is a good book to talk to children about neighbors and friends working together and helping someone who might be less fortunate than they are.
This book, meant for children 3 to 7 years of age, is beautifully illustrated by Sharon Harmer, a freelance illustrator for more than 15 years, who has worked on more than 50 books.
Author Michael Herman, who lives in Chicago, has written a number of books for adults.
‘Moti the Mitzvah Mouse’ by Vivian Newman, Kar-Ben Publishing
Moti lives under the sink in the home of a Jewish family and keeps busy at night doing mitzvot for the family and his friends. Geared for 2- to 5-year-olds, the reader can discuss with the child details about each mitzvah Moti performs and relate it to the child and mitzvot he or she might begin to perform.
Inga Knopp-Kilpert provides colorful illustrations in cartoon format, filled with details and cute animals. Born in Germany, she is based in Stuttgart.
Vivian Newman, who lives in Springfield, Connecticut, is the author of several children’s books and is an educational consultant for the PJ library.
‘Rosie Saves the World’ by Debbie Herman, Kar-Ben Publishing
Tikkun olam, repairing the world, is a wonderful idea to teach children. In this book for 4- to 8-year-olds, Rosie takes the idea to heart and starts doing all kinds of mitzvot — except she forgets that she has to do things for her family also. With her big glasses and curly red hair, Rosie is a very endearing little girl who shows readers how to repair the world in the right way. Concluding the book is an explanation of areyvut, helping one’s family and community.
Debbie Herman is a writer of children’s books and lives in Jerusalem. Tammie Lyon is a professional children’s illustrator who lives in Cincinnati.
‘Drop by Drop’ by Jacqueline Jules, Kar-Ben Publishing
In the 1st century CE, Akiva was a poor illiterate shepherd when Rachel, a rich man’s daughter, met him and fell in love with him. Although disowned by her father, they married and she encouraged Akiva, at age 40, to learn. He became a famous Jewish sage.
Although recommended for children 3 to 8 years old, those who are 7 or older would probably appreciate and understand the story better. Explaining how someone believing in another person, and encouraging them and loving them can make a difference in a person’s life, is a difficult concept.
Jacqueline Jules is an accomplished children’s book author of 40 books, many award-winning; she is also a teacher, librarian and poet who lives in northern Virginia.
Yevgenia Nayberg is a painter, theater stage designer and illustrator who grew up in Kiev. She lives in New York City. The Kirkus review writes that Nayberg’s “richly textured illustrations are stately and sculptural, depicting Rachel and Akiva with pale skin and red hair.” JN
Sybil Kaplan is a journalist, book reviewer and food writer. She was a synagogue librarian in Overland Park, Kansas, before moving back to Israel.