Tamar of Venice, Moshe of Japan, and Mendy of Siberia are the first three books in a new series (Young Lamplighters) about Jewish children who live all over the world, the lives they live, the cities in which they reside and the challenges and joys of being religiously observant in locales where this lifestyle is not the norm. The children featured in the books are from Chabad Lubavitch families who have been sent worldwide to establish centers of Jewish life to support the needs of local communities and travelers who are seeking Jewish service and aid in far flung regions. The child narrators describe the fascinating aspects of their lifestyles as they teach readers about the countries in which they live.
Tamar describes her daily trek to school, not on a school bus but by vaporetto, a special boat that sails down Venice’s many canals. She describes her home in the Jewish ghetto of Venice and explains the history of the word as it relates to the original historical ghetto in the area. Moshe describes the highly efficient Japanese train system and the sparkling cleanliness of Tokyo. He explains that he goes to school online as there is currently no Jewish school in Tokyo but he plays ball at a sports center with Japanese friends. Mendy shares information about life in ice-cold Siberia including descriptions of ice sculptures he can climb through and slide down. All the children discuss food — the challenges as well as the sometimes surprising ease of maintaining a kosher diet in their respective cities. Tamar and Moshe talk about grocery shopping and Mendy describes special cold basements used for storage of vegetables that don’t grow during the long winter.
Each book features a map so the reader can have a sense of where each narrator is located and the text, which has been translated from the original Hebrew, is accompanied by beautiful color photographs of the children’s daily activities. The books each include a section of “fascinating facts” about the city in which the young narrator resides; both general information and Jewish history can be found in these informative pages. The book on Venice includes some Italian vocabulary, the book on Japan includes both vocabulary and a sample of Japanese writing, and the book on Siberia teaches about the structure of a snowflake and presents instructions for crafting a snowflake out of paper.
These charming, educational books provide a glimpse into other lives and broaden the outlook of the reader. They are bright, colorful and appealing looks at cities of the world and serve as introductions to children who lead interesting lifestyles devoted to helping others.
Recommended for ages 7 – 12.
Michal Hoschander Malen is the editor of Jewish Book Council’s young adult and children’s book reviews. A former librarian, she has lectured on topics relating to literacy, run book clubs, and loves to read aloud to her grandchildren.