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Zayde Comes to Live

Zayde Comes to Live

4.0 2
by Sheri Sinykin, Kristina Swarner (Illustrator)

In this touching story, a young Jewish girl tries to make peace with the impending death of her grandfather.

Rachel's grandfather, her zayde, has come to live with her family. This is because he is dying, she realizes. Rachel can't help wondering where he will go when he dies. She asks her friends. She asks her rabbi. She asks Zayde.

No one has


In this touching story, a young Jewish girl tries to make peace with the impending death of her grandfather.

Rachel's grandfather, her zayde, has come to live with her family. This is because he is dying, she realizes. Rachel can't help wondering where he will go when he dies. She asks her friends. She asks her rabbi. She asks Zayde.

No one has the perfect answer, but eventually Rachel finds a way to make peace with the fact of her grandfather's passing. She learns to gather all the moments she can, and to honor his life one small memory at a time.

In this sensitive portrait of a young girl and her grandfather, author Sheri Sinykin approaches the issue of death from a distinctly Jewish perspective while demonstrating respect for all beliefs. Kristina Swarner's lush illustrations add layers of depth and wonder to the story.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Rachel learns that the impending death of her grandfather—her zayde—doesn’t have to be tragic in this beautiful and accessible tale that gives expression to many children’s fears about dying. Now that her elderly grandfather has moved in with her family, Rachel sees firsthand his waning energy and confused moments, and is worried about where he will go when he dies. When her Christian and Muslim friends provide answers that don’t suit Rachel because she is Jewish, the rabbi explains that “his energy will live on with your ancestors in the World to Come.” Her zayde, too, helps her understand that there can be peace and completeness in death. Sinykin hits just the right balance of communication and reassurance with her storytelling, as does Swarner with her endearing and soothing illustrations. Children will relate to Rachel’s concerns and appreciate the comforting and positive messages relayed in a story that takes on a difficult and important subject. Ages 6�10. (Oct.)
Children's Literature - Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
Our young narrator knows, even though no one has told her, that her grandfather has come to live with them because he is dying. There are so many things he cannot do any more. Rachel wonders what will happen to him. One friend tells her he will go to Heaven if he believes in Jesus. "But we do not," notes Rachel. Hakim says grandfather will go to Paradise, but must believe in Allah. But Rachel's family is Jewish. Rachel worries but is afraid to ask. Finally she asks her rabbi. He tells her that grandfather's energy will live on with her ancestors in the World to Come. She tells her grandfather that she does not want him to die. He says that it is the circle of life, and he is at peace with it. His tired body will return to the earth. But his spirit will live on; his love will stay with her along with her memories, in this reassuring story to help youngsters cope with death. Linoleum cuts produce the gentle shapes that define the home and the cast of characters, while watercolors help supply the emotional content; their soft transparencies emphasizing spiritual rather than corporeal objectivity. Colored pencils supply the small details that contribute to the naturalism of the visuals. Front end pages present a starry sky while the rear pages depict windblown leaves dancing to the song of two small birds. Reviewer: Ken Marantz and Sylvia Marantz
School Library Journal
PreS-Gr 1—Rachel's grandpa has come to live out his final days with her family, and the girl worries about what will happen to him next. Predictions from her non-Jewish friends don't quite fit, but she is satisfied when her rabbi says that Zayde will join his ancestors and points out that the man is living until the moment he dies. Rachel focuses on making a few final memories and treasuring Zayde's remaining time. There are many stories for young children about grandparents passing away, but this one is unique in that it centers on the time leading up to death instead of its aftermath. The beautifully sensitive storytelling comforts readers by showing the inevitability of the circle of life in the context of strong family love. Although the book is aimed at Jewish audiences, the emotions ring true universally. Swarner's gentle, softly colored linoleum prints suit the story perfectly, both in the household scenes and the spiritual ones. The artist has illustrated Howard Schwartz's Before You Were Born (Roaring Brook, 2005), an excellent companion piece to this story. Pitch-perfect text and illustrations combine to create a story that will touch readers' hearts.—Heidi Estrin, Congregation B'nai Israel, Boca Raton, FL
Kirkus Reviews
Though many parents tend to shield their young children from the realities of terminal illness, this picture book looks at death through the concerned and loving eyes of a child who begins to understand the concept behind the "circle of life." When Zayde comes to live in Rachel's house, it is "because he is dying." Watching him sit and sleep day and night in a sleeper-chair with an oxygen tube, Rachel instinctively knows that he is close to death and begins to question where he will go after his last breath. Megan says he will go to heaven, and Hakim says he will go to Paradise, but Zayde's Jewish; is there a place for him? Through this question-and-answer text, listeners are told of the inevitability gently, with Zayde's acceptance and feelings of "shalom," peace and completeness, and the rabbi's explanation of "Olam Ha-Ba," the Jewish belief in the "World to Come." Most importantly Rachel learns that memories carried in family stories will keep her grandfather alive in her heart. Sinykin does a commendable job of dispelling fear with empathy and tenderness through some very direct yet positive answers to a child's uncertainty. Linoleum prints created with watercolors and colored pencils in muted tones reflect a spiritually calm and sometimes whimsical ambiance, matching the text's gentle tone. Though Rachel's quest takes place within a Jewish context, her emotions and situation are near universal, and this artful book handles both well. (Picture book. 5-10)

Product Details

Peachtree Publishers, Ltd.
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
10.10(w) x 10.20(h) x 0.40(d)
AD490L (what's this?)
Age Range:
4 - 8 Years

Meet the Author

Sheri Sinykin is the author of several middle grade and young adult novels. She holds degrees from Stanford University and Vermont College, where she received an MFA in writing for children. She lives in Massachusetts and Arizona.

A graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design, Kristina Swarner has illustrated books, posters, and greeting cards. She lives in Illinois.

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Zayde Comes to Live 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
book4children More than 1 year ago
I got this book via Net Galley for review. I only got the text, no illustrations, so I can only comment on the story itself and not the artwork. Death is a very sensitive topic and one that most people would rather not address. For children especially, it can be a frightening subject. Zayde Comes to Live is a gentle explanation of the complicated experience of death. It is told from a child's perspective, and it is very warm and comforting. I loved the part where the rabbi comes to visit the family and tells Rachel that Zayde is living until the moment he dies. It calms her fears and helps her make the most of his last days. While this story was distinctly for those of the Jewish faith, it was respectful to all religions and can apply to a broad scope of people. This is definitely a book that I will be reading to my children when it comes out.
MissLicorice More than 1 year ago
You managed to capture such a sad time in a child's life and turn it into a beautiful moment. We have some very close friends who are of the Jewish faith and I will remember this book as a gift sometime in the future. Well done and thank you!