My 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:Â 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.