the best jewish chapter books of 2009

by marjorieingall on December 7, 2009

9780805089363My current Tablet column is here. The list of best picture books of the year, aka last week’s column, is here.

There were some other notable Jewish books I should maybe fill you in on, for your gifting pleasure. Check ‘em out: A Picture Book of Harry Houdini by David A. Adler and Michael S. Adler, illustrated by Matt Collins (Holiday House); We’re All in the Same Boat by Zachary Shapiro, illustrated by Jack E. David (Putnam); The Anne Frank Case: Simon Wiesenthal’s Search for the Truth by Susan Goldman Rubin, illustrated by Bill Farnsworth (Holiday House); The Grand Mosque of Paris: A Story of How Muslims Rescued Jews During The Holocaust by Karen Ray Ruelle and Deborah Durland DeSaix (Holiday House). I desperately wanted to love So Punk Rock (And Other Ways to Disappoint Your Mother) by Micol Ostow, illustrated by David Ostow (Flux) and didn’t, but a Jewish Day School-attending indie-music-loving teen or tween might.

Back when I did books roundups for the Forward, I included not-so-Jewy books. I’m not doing that at Tablet. (Hey, might as well make things challenging for myself, and there are plenty of other non-Jewy best-kids-books-of-the-year lists out there.) But I’ll just share a very few super-excellent not-explicitly-Jewish books, OK?

In non-fiction, I goggled at Pharaoh’s Boat by David Weitzman (Houghton Mifflin). It’s an astounding achievement. It might make a good Afikomen gift for a non-fiction-loving kid, what with the whole Pharaoh connection. It’s about the work of a brilliant Egyptian archaeologist who used art and craft and science to figure out how slaves built giant boats for Cheops. In the fiction category, I freakin’ adored Paul Fleischman’s The Dunderheads (Candlewick), illustrated by David Roberts. Think Oceans 11 for schoolkids. It’s a picture book, but challenging enough for early chapter book readers. It’s a caper and an adventure story and a non-thuddingly-obvious self-esteem-y parable, and the illustrations are hip and delicious. I cannot express the awesomeness.

For very little kids, I loved Daddy, Papa and Me, by Leslea Newman, illustrated by Carol Thompson (Tricycle), a sweet little board book about having two dads. (There’s also Mommy, Mama and Me by the same duo.) Again, no explicitly Jewish content, but such a lovely book for the youngest kids showing that families come in all permutations. And sadly, I miss a lot of books as they get published, and I missed I Love Jewish Faces by Debra Darvick (URJ). The author emailed me last week asking me to check out her book for preschool-aged kids, so I read a bit of it online and it looks lovely — composed of photos of Jewish faces and simple text, making the wonderful point that Jews come in many different races and ethnicities. It would be a great buy for any Jewish library.

Finally, my favorite non-Jewy chapter books this year: My best friend Gayle Forman’s book If I Stay (Dutton) (which I’d have loved even if it weren’t written by my best friend — gazillions of starred reviews testify to its awesomeness and these reviewers do not even know that Gayle is a wonderful human being); The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly (Henry Holt); and When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead (Wendy Lamb).

Whew. And now I must go focus on my OTHER JOB, writing for Self, finishing a story that was due, um, Friday.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

gayle December 7, 2009 at 7:01 pm

I pay her to write these things.
xxxx

Michelle January 4, 2010 at 1:38 pm

I’m trying to help redo our Temple children’s library. These are some great ideas. I’d like to say that “I Love Jewish Faces” is adorable. Simple and certainly shows that Jews come in all shapes, sizes, colors and characteristics.

Izabella February 18, 2011 at 5:37 pm

Ok I cannot find any books that I have read! I cannot stand it I dont care about this book what about Number the Stars or I have lived a thousand years?

marjorieingall February 21, 2011 at 9:24 am

Izabella, this story was about the best Jewish children’s books published in 2009. Number the Stars is a wonderful book — I’ve written about it many times — but it was not published in 2009.

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