Moshe of Japan

Ella Ver­zov & Chana Oirechman
  • Review
By – June 6, 2014

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.

Discussion Questions