Great Reading Picks for the Hebrew School Classroom

Jewish Children’s Books

The Mitzvah of Teaching Children

The Torah commands us to teach our children and with Rosh Hashanah fast approaching, so too is the start of the religious school year in many synagogues and temples. As a teacher myself, I’m also preparing for the return to the classroom. I teach a group of children ranging in grades K-2, so ages 6 to 8.

For this group, my lesson plans consist of using arts and crafts to teach the stories of the Torah in a hands-on and age-appropriate way. We also practice the aleph-bet and are beginning to read symbols in Hebrew. I also incorporate story books that fit the lessons of the week. When selecting books, I focus on choosing from the rich library of titles by Jewish authors. To help other educators, because sharing resources builds community and makes us all better, I’ve compiled a list of all the books I used during the last school term.

To help keep my students engaged and excited about our weekly story time, I printed the cover art image of each book, laminated them (not necessary but helps them hold up better), and taped each one to a large poster board

in our classroom as a visual reading chart. It also helped students remember their favorites, which they would request to hear again when we had a few spare minutes. The kids were excited to see our reading list grow as the year continued. They also enjoyed reminding each other of what each book was about or for what occasion we read them.

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Sammy Spider’s First Rosh Hashanah by Sylvia A. Rouss

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Sammy Spider wants to taste the golden honey the Shapiros set out for a sweet New Year. Mom tells him to stick to spinning webs, but will curious Sammy listen?

The Book of Jonah by Peter Spier

Two-time Caldecott illustrator Peter Spier’s visual retelling of a favorite Bible story is back in print! In a tale full of action, adventure, and strife, Jonah is asked by God to tell the people of Nineveh to mend their wicked ways. Fleeing from this enormous task, Jonah sets sail and is thrown overboard and swallowed by a great fish. What follows is Jonah’s journey to acceptance of God’s love and grace.

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A reference section at the end of the book shares historical and geographical notes about the story, including details about the ship Jonah might have sailed on and a fascinating discussion of the ancient city of Nineveh and the location of its ruins in present-day Iraq.

Gitty and Kvetch by Caroline Kusin Pritchard

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In this hilariously sweet story about an opposites-attract friendship, chock-full of Yiddish humor, a girl and her best bird friend’s perfect day turns into a perfect opportunity to see things differently.

Gitty and her feathered-friend Kvetch couldn’t be more different: Gitty always sees the bright side of life, while her curmudgeonly friend Kvetch is always complaining and, well, kvetching about the trouble they get into.

One perfect day, Gitty ropes Kvetch into shlepping off on a new adventure to their perfect purple treehouse. Even when Kvetch sees signs of impending doom everywhere, Gitty finds silver linings and holds onto her super special surprise reason for completing their mission.

But when her perfect plan goes awry, oy vey, suddenly it’s Gitty who’s down in the dumps. Can Kvetch come out of his funk to lift Gitty’s spirits back up?

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Estie the Mensch by Jane Kohuth

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Estie the Mensch Written by Jane Kohuth Illustrated by Rosanne Litzinger Ages: Challah Toast (3 to 4 Years) Month: July Year: 2013 Publisher: Random House Download Reading Guide SYNOPSIS: Estie does not always know how to be around other people and sometimes when her grandmother reminds her to be a mensch, she’d rather not. She’d prefer to be a turtle or a seagull. Eventually, something happens that shows her grandmother and Estie herself what a mensch the girl can really be.

Abraham and Sarah by Rich Linville

Abram was the tenth descendant of Noah. God called Abram to leave his home and go to a new land that God would show Him.

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**This book does include a reference to Jesus being a descendant of Abraham. It can be skipped over without impacting the story. The maps of where Abraham and Sarah traveled helped my students understand where our ancestors lived during this time while demonstrating the places in the Torah are real.

Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins by Eric Kimmel

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On the first night of Hanukkah, a weary traveler named Hershel of Ostropol eagerly approaches a village where plenty of latkes and merriment should warm him. But when he arrives, not a single candle is lit. A band of frightful goblins has taken over the synagogue, and the villagers cannot celebrate at all! Hershel vows to help them. But can one man alone stand up to the goblins, save Hanukkah, and live to tell the tale?


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Benno and the Night of Broken Glass by Meg Wiviott

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A neighborhood cat observes the changes in German and Jewish families in Berlin during the period leading up to Kristallnacht, the Night of Broken Glass. This cat’s-eye view introduces the Holocaust to children in a gentle way that can open discussion of this period.

A Place for Elijah by Kelly Easton Ruben

As Sarah’s family prepares for Passover, Sarah makes sure to save a chair at the table for the prophet Elijah who is said to visit every Seder. But when the electricity goes out in the buildings across the street and the neighbors start arriving at Sarah’s apartment, her parents invite each visitor to join the Seder. Sarah adds another place setting for Elijah, and then another, but soon the table is full with people from her neighborhood and there are no more chairs to spare! How can Sarah honor the Passover tradition of saving a place for Elijah?

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Miriam by the River by Jane Yolen

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The biblical story of baby Moses as told by his big sister.Giving her baby brother a kiss, brave little Miriam places Moses’ basket into the river. With one quick push, she sends him into the water, hoping her wish will come true and her brother will be saved from Pharaoh’s orders. But will Pharaoh’s daughter arrive in time to rescue him?


The Story of Anne Frank by Emma Carlson Berne

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Discover the life of Anne Frank—a story about staying hopeful for kids ages 6 to 9 Anne Frank was a young Jewish girl who lived during World War II, when people like her were killed just for being Jewish. Anne and her family were forced to hide in a tiny, secret space to try and survive, and Anne began keeping a diary to practice her love of writing and pass the time. In her writing, she described what life was like as a Jewish person during the war. She also wrote about her hopes, dreams, and the future she wanted when she could live a normal life again. Even though she was scared, Anne believed in the goodness of people and never gave up hope that life would get better again. The Story of Anne Frank includes:

  • Core curriculum standards—Learn the Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How of Anne’s life, and take a quick quiz to test your knowledge.
  • Her lasting change—Discover how Anne Frank helped make the world a better place for future generations, including you.
  • Clear definitions—Find a glossary with easy-to-understand definitions for some of the more advanced words and ideas in the book.

How will Anne’s bravery and optimism inspire you?

Bim and Bom, A Shabbat Tale by Daniel J. Swartz

Bim, a builder, and her brother Bom, a baker, live on opposite sides of town. All week long they work hard but when Shabbat comes, they celebrate the day together. A warm story of village life inspired by the well known song “Shabbat Shalom.” Song notes and lyrics included.

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The Vanishing Gourds, A Sukkot Mystery by Susan Axe-Bronk

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When Sara’s gourds―decorations for the family sukkah―start mysteriously disappearing, the hunt for the culprits is on. The family of squirrels who are to blame pay the family back for the missing gourds in a surprising way.


Maccabee! The Story of Hanukkah by Tilda Balsley

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Judah and the little army of Maccabees fight to free Jerusalem from the cruel King Antiochus in this vibrant and action-filled rhyming version of the famous Hanukkah story.

Share Some Kindness Bring Some Light by Apryl Stott

Bear is sad. All the other animals think he’s mean because he’s so big. But his human friend, Coco, offers to help him. Coco shares her grandmother’s advice: “When life gets dark as winter’s night, share some kindness, bring some light.”

They decide to bake cookies to “share some kindness” and make lanterns to “bring some light.” But when the cookies and lanterns don’t work, they must look for another way to win over the other animals. And while they’re at it, Coco and Bear just might discover that kindness is a gift that only comes from the heart.

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Welcoming Elijah, A Passover Tale with a Tail by Leslea Newman

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Inside, a boy and his family sit around the dinner table to embrace the many traditions of their Passover Seder around the dinner table. Outside, a cat wonders, hungry and alone. When it’s time for the symbolic Passover custom of opening the family’s front door for the prophet Elijah, both the boy and the cat are in for a remarkable surprise.


The Story of Esther, a Purim Story by Eric A. Kimmel

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The Purim story is full of drama. It brings together a mighty king, a jealous scoundrel, and a wise uncle. However, at its center is a clever heroine who was so beautiful she was known as the Morning Star. This dramatic story shows how it was only because of Queen Esther’s cunning and courage that evil was brought to justice and many threatened lives were saved. Told for many thousands of years, her story is still thrilling and inspiring.

Saturdays are Special by Chris Barash

In this child’s household, Shabbat is different from the rest of the week — slower, quieter, more peaceful. Most of all, everyone has more time to spend with one another. That’s what makes Saturdays so special.

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Let My People Go by Tilda Balsley

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Everyone can take part as Moses implores Pharoah to “”Let My People Go!”” This light-hearted rhyming tale can be read alone or with a cast of characters as a “”Reader’s Theater.”” Perfect for family seders, library story time, and classroom dramatizations.

In Our Teeny Tiny Matzah House by Bill and Claire Wutzel

Illustrated with unique food faces art, the classic folktale of the crowded house is told from the family cat’s point of view and features a Passover seder.

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Joey and the Giant Box by Deborah Lakritz

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When Joey decides to keep the giant box in which the new dishwasher arrives, he comes up with a very special use for it – and does a mitzvah along the way.


Happy Birthday Tree! A Tu B’Shevat Story by Madelyn Rosenberg

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Tu B’Shevat is a Jewish holiday known as “New Year for Trees” or “Birthday of the Trees,” a day that celebrates trees and taking care of our environment. In this story, which takes place on Tu B’Shevat, a little girl named Joni presents her favorite climbing tree with a special birthday gift.

Joseph had a Little Overcoat by Simms Taback

Joseph had a little overcoat, but it was full of holes—just like this book! When Joseph’s coat got too old and shabby, he made it into a jacket. But what did he make it into after that? And after that?As children turn the pages of this book, they can use the die-cut holes to guess what Joseph will be making next from his amazing overcoat, while they laugh at the bold, cheerful artwork and learn that you can always make something, even out of nothing.

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Martin Luther King Jr by Mary Nhin

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In the new Mini Movers and Shakers children’s book series comes a cast of characters who have failed, yet succeeded despite overwhelming obstacles. Find out what happens in this kids book about achieving goals with nonviolence.Sometimes, we are faced with challenges that seem insurmountable. But with grit and hard work, one can achieve great things!Mini Movers and Shakers was developed to inspire children to dream big and work hard. Fun, relatable characters in graphic style books easy enough for young readers, yet interesting for adults.The Mini Movers and Shakers book series is geared to kids 3-11+. Perfect for boys, girls, early readers, primary school students, or toddlers. Excellent resource for educators, parents, and teachers alike.

The Story of Creation by Patricia A. Pingry

Tells the Old Testament story of God’s creation of the world.

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