Concept, tone, layout, and lively color photographs of Jews internationally explain the High Holidays to youngsters with awe and joy. If practice makes perfect, this third entry (first two on Hanukkah and Passover) about Jewish holidays in National Geographic’s Holidays Around the World series proves the point. The text introduces religious and cultural details in a clear style. A tone of warm inclusiveness absorbs readers into their Jewish community with pride and delight while it invites non-Jews to understand Jewish religious customs. Readers see Jews celebrate around the world. Children discover Rosh Hashanah with sweetness and hope; they learn about atoning for sins, asking God for another year of life and marking the anniversary of creation. Celebrations at home highlight prayers, honey, and round challah; those in synagogue, prayers, Torah, and shofar. Tashlich gets a two page spread, then the mood grays with the ten Days of Repentance and Yom Kippur. Readers feel the seriousness of admitting sins, introspection, and fasting, but the gravitas is balanced by family togetherness and individual renewal. Because the book caters to young children, memorial services and candles appear in one photo caption and in the rabbinical end note, not in the main text. One small slip: Yom Kippur eve is erev, but Rosh Hashanah is the evening before. The layout uses key words in stand-alone, large font to focus on the main ideas and succeeds admirably in delivering important concepts. Photographs of children’s faces are full of pleasure. A recipe, glossary, map of photograph sites, the Al Het prayer, and bibliography end this highly recommended book for children from 5 to 8 years old.
Ellen G. Cole, a retired librarian of the Levine Library of Temple Isaiah in Los Angeles, is a past judge of the Sydney Taylor Book Awards and a past chairperson of that committee. She is a co-author of the AJL guide, Excellence in Jewish Children’s Literature. Ellen is the recipient of two major awards for contribution to Judaic Librarianship, the Fanny Goldstein Merit Award from the Association of Jewish Libraries and the Dorothy Schroeder Award from the Association of Jewish Libraries of Southern California. She is on the board of AJLSC.