Contact: Heidi Rabinowitz
For immediate release, October 4, 2021 — The Association of Jewish Libraries is pleased to announce that seven titles have been selected for its seasonal AJL Holiday Highlights list. These titles are AJL’s picks for the best Jewish holiday children’s books of Fall 2021.
Titles that are selected as Holiday Highlights exemplify the highest standards of authentic Jewish representation and holiday spirit in both writing and illustration. A committee of expert judges recommends these books for use by families, in schools, and in libraries. AJL hopes that the publishing world will look to the quality of these examples when creating new children’s books about Jewish holidays.
Holiday Highlights titles are named twice a year, for the spring and fall publishing seasons. Digital submissions are being accepted now for the Spring 2022 list through THIS FORM. For print submissions, please query firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Fall 2021 AJL Holiday Highlights are:
Bubbe and Bart’s Matzoh Ball Mayhem by Bonnie Grubman, illustrated by Deborah Melmon, published by Intergalactic Afikomen. Ages 4-8. ISBN 978-1951365080
In this energetically illustrated celebration of Shabbat, besneakered Bubbe and her expressive pooch, Bart, round up rogue matzoh balls magically careening around the room. Their preparatory frenzy settles into a calm family holiday, perfect for highlighting both the bustle and the quiet joy of Shabbat.
Hanukkah at Valley Forge by Stephen Krensky, illustrated by Greg Harlin, published by Apples & Honey Press. Ages 5-10. ISBN 978-1681155845
In this luminously illustrated picture book, General George Washington meets a Jewish soldier lighting Hanukkah candles and is inspired by the story of how a small band of Jewish fighters defeated a powerful army. This 2007 Sydney Taylor Book Award winner has been brought back into print with slightly revised text.
Is It Hanukkah Yet? by Nancy Krulik, illustrated by Monique Dong, Step Into Reading Level 2 series published by Penguin Random House. Ages 4-6. ISBN 978-0593375846
This sweet 2000 early reader has been charmingly reillustrated and the story has been revised to suit modern family life: grandpa cooks the latkes, and the child stays with her elders while her parents work. Anticipation builds until Hanukkah begins at nightfall, and with it an opportunity to celebrate with candles, latkes, dreidels, gifts, and more. This lovely, joyful celebration of the holiday is ideal for new readers and preschoolers alike.
Rosh Hashanah with Uncle Max written and illustrated by Varda Livney, published by Kar-Ben Publishing. Ages 0-4. ISBN 978-1728429069
White goofball Uncle Max and his brown-skinned niece and nephew are joined by their dog as they light candles, dip apples in honey, recite kiddush and motzi, attend services to hear the shofar, and enjoy cake to celebrate “the birthday of the world.” Hebrew words are translated and transliterated — as are the dog’s woofs! Boyntonesque illustrations help to make this a sweet treat for the New Year.
Hello, Hanukkah written and illustrated by Susan Novich, published by Kar-Ben Publishing. Ages 0-4. ISBN 978-1728403441
Structured as a simple counting text, this lovely board book features Badger and his pet hoopoe celebrating Hanukkah traditions, one per night. Vibrant cut paper illustrations follow the duo’s gentle holiday observance as readers practice colors and numbers along the way.
Sharkbot Shalom by Jenna Waldman, illustrated by Sharon Davey, published by Apples & Honey Press. Ages 4-8. ISBN 978-1681155678
Rhyming text with silly, sea-themed interjections like “tumbling tides!” convey a robot-shark’s sense of anxiety and plummeting energy, counting down from 10 to 1. He busily prepares to host Shabbat, when he’ll finally get to recharge physically (by plugging in his cord) and emotionally (by hosting friends). A cool underwater palette and expressive cartoon illustrations add to the book’s appeal.
Red and Green and Blue and White by Lee Wind, illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky, published by Levine Querido. Ages 5-10. ISBN 978-1646140879
In a town full of Christmas decorations, the menorah in Isaac’s window stands out. When someone throws a rock through the window of his house, the whole town comes together, putting drawings of menorahs in their windows, too. This lovely picture book deals with the difficult topic of antisemitism beautifully, in an accessible and age appropriate way.
Find a PDF listing the Fall 2021 AJL Holiday Highlights titles HERE.
AJL’s Holiday Highlights judges are experts in their field:
Robbin Friedman is the head of children’s services at the Chappaqua Library in Chappaqua, NY. She has served on ALSC’s Newbery committee, written for School Library Journal, The Horn Book and Guessing Geisel, and taught Hebrew school once upon a time.
Amy Lilien-Harper has been a professional children’s librarian since 1995. She has served on the Newbery committee, the Caldecott committee and the ALA Notable children’s recordings committees. She reviews picture books for School Library Journal, and has served four times on the Nutmeg Committee, which chooses books for the Connecticut Children’s choice awards.
Sylvie Shaffer is the PreK-8 librarian at the Capitol Hill Day School in Washington, DC and is active in several overlapping kidlit-focused communities including ALSC, YALSA, and Capitol Choices. Sylvie served on AJL’s 2019 and 2020 Sydney Taylor Book Awards as well as on ALSC’s 2018 Geisel Committee.
The Association of Jewish Libraries, the leading authority on Judaic librarianship, is an international professional organization that fosters access to information and research in all forms of media relating to all things Jewish. The Association promotes Jewish literacy and scholarship and provides a community for peer support and professional development. Learn more at jewishlibraries.org.