As a young girl in Baltimore in the late 1800s, Henrietta Szold was inspired by the story of Queen Esther read during the Jewish holiday of Purim. She became a teacher in 1877 and opened a night school to help Jewish immigrants from Russia and Poland learn English. She also started the Jewish Publication Society and was the first woman to attend the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York. She is perhaps best known as the founder of Hadassah, a Jewish women’s organization started on Purim in 1912 to combat disease and hunger in Palestine.
In 1933, when Hitler came to power, Henrietta traveled to Germany to try to bring as many Jewish children as possible to safety. Throughout the war years, Henrietta worked to bring more than 11,000 children to Palestine through Hadassah’s Youth Aliyah program.
Churnin’s comprehensive and inspiring text, paired with Nayberg’s rich multi-layered, expressive, and artful mixed-media illustrations, bring to life this remarkable woman who was long overdue for a picture book biography. Particularly impressive is the way Churnin connects the lessons of the Purim story to Henrietta’s life and accomplishments, and how she provides a concise, concrete, age-appropriate explanation of Hitler’s rise to power and the plight of the Jewish people in Europe. Extensive back matter provides additional information about Henrietta Szold’s life and legacy, a further explanation of Purim, a timeline, and a bibliography. Pair with other biographies of American Jewish women leaders like Goldie Takes a Stand by Barbara Krasner (Kar-Ben, 2014) and Hannah G. Solomon Dared to Make a Difference by Bonnie Lindauer (Kar-Ben, 2021) to help bring Henrietta Szold’s words to life for young readers: “Dare to dream and when you dream, dream big.”
Rachel Kamin has been a synagogue librarian and Jewish educator for over twenty-five years and has worked at North Suburban Synagogue Beth El in Highland Park, IL since 2008, currently serving as the Director of Lifelong Learning. A past chair of the Sydney Taylor Book Award Committee and past editor of Book Reviews for Children & Teens for the Association of Jewish Libraries News & Reviews, her articles and book reviews appear in numerous publications. She has been a member of the American Library Association’s Sophie Brody Book Award Committee since 2021.