A is for Abraham: A Jewish Family Alphabetby Richard Michelson, Ron Mazellan (Illustrator)
From Abraham to Zaydee, and from ancient times to modern day, A is for Abraham: A Jewish Family Alphabet encompasses the history of Jewish traditions and customs and how they are practiced today. Following the alphabet, a poem identifies the letter topic while sidebar text provides background information. C could be the challah that my bubbe used to braid, or C could be the chicken soup, when I was sick she made, or chocolate coins on Chanukah we added to our coffers. But I say C should be for Chai "To Life" and all it offers. This joyful celebration of family and heritage includes the meaning behind celebrations such as the Festival of Lights, Passover, and Sukkot; important names and stories from the Old Testament; and how modern-day families continue to celebrate their heritage. Richard Michelson's children's books have received distinctive awards such as a New Yorker Best Book Award and a Jewish Book Council Book of the Month. His titles include Too Young for Yiddish; Across the Alley; and Tuttle's Red Barn (a Publishers Weekly Best Children's Book of 2007). He lives in Northampton, Massachusetts. Ron Mazellan's work has been featured in film and advertising, as well as books and magazines. His work for young readers includes The Harmonica (an IRA Children's Choice Award winner) and The Longest Season (a New York Times top ten bestseller). Ron teaches at Indiana Wesleyan University and lives in Marion, Indiana.
This entry in an ever-expanding alphabet series presents a facet of Jewish tradition for each letter. Large, colorful illustrations are accompanied by short rhymes and prose sidebars with additional information. The rhymes are uneven in quality and do not always scan well. They often require knowledge of Jewish life to be understood. The sidebars provide background and context to fill in these gaps, but even so, the information is limited and broadly simplified, and the book will best be appreciated by those familiar with Judaism. As in many such alphabet books, the facts are somewhat random. The author introduces an assortment of holiday customs, biblical or other famous Jewish figures, and cultural elements like klezmer music. Despite many references to Israel, the book has an American point of view; the letter "U" represents "U.S. of A. where half the world's Jews are living today." The luminous illustrations are the book's best feature. The realistic paintings show expressive individuals often captured in quiet moments of emotion. The modern scenes depict mainstream white American Jews with whom many non-Orthodox readers can identify. This is a solid choice for identity-building and education in Jewish settings, and it could be used to introduce Judaism if interpreted by a knowledgeable facilitator and combined with other titles.-Heidi Estrin, Feldman Children's Library at Congregation B'nai Israel, Boca Raton, FL
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