The publishing industry is trying to expand its diversity. The #WeNeedDiverseBooks call has evolved into an ever growing movement, though Jewish books are not always included in the cry for diversity. As a Jewish woman with a Jewish-themed picture book, Shmulik Paints The Town, I know the importance of including Jewish books in diversity talks, and that these books can be enjoyed by everyone.
An easy way to add diversity to your child’s library is to think about common or relevant themes or story structures and how you can build upon a child’s prior knowledge. For example, if your reader likes the story of Five Little Ducklings, then they will love Five Little Gelfites. It follows the same traditional plot line but with strong dash of Jewish humor. Dave Horowitz also provides a glossary of Yiddish words which helps readers who are not familiar with the language.
Laurel Snyder also has a glossary for Baxter The Pig Who Wanted To Be Kosher. Many people associate the word “kosher” with being Jewish. Yet, they may not have an understanding of what it means. Snyder explains how everyone—even a pig—can celebrate Shabbat. The mixed media illustrations by David Goldin are so much fun, and will appeal to fans of Mo Willems’ Knuffle Bunny.
Sadie And The Big Mountain by Jamie Korngold and Julie Fortenberry has a similar theme to Green Eggs and Ham. Sadie isn’t being encouraged to eat ham, but she is fearful of climbing a mountain. Every child can relate to being afraid to do something and giving a million excuses to avoid it.
To add to your Fourth of July stories about freedom and fireworks, your reader can learn more about Israeli Independence day in my book Shmulik Paints The Town, illustrated by Catalina Echeverri. This story is about how Shmulik, the town painter, can’t decide what to paint and how he gets some help from his dog, Ezra.
If your reader likes tales of animals doing amazing things, then check out this true tale about Ketzel, The Cat Who Composed by Leslea Newman, Illustrated by Amy June Bates. It is about how a cat helped the composer Moshe Cotel create a song. This book also won the Sydney Taylor Award for best Jewish Children’s book.
Now with our country on the verge of electing our first female president, Goldie Takes A Stand by Barbara Krasner and illustrated by Kelsey Garrity-Riley is so timely to read. It is about how even while in grade school Golda Meir, Israel’s first Prime Minister, encouraged her peers to stand up for their beliefs.
Lisa Rose is the PJ Library author of Shmulik Paints the Town.