Beautifully illustrated books help tell the stories behind Jewish holidays


September 09, 1994|By Molly Dunham Glassman | Molly Dunham Glassman,Sun Staff Writer

We are in the middle of the Days of Awe, the 10 days between the Jewish high holidays of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. It's a time to reflect back on what you've done during the past year -- the good and the bad -- and then to apologize for the mistakes and work to correct them.

Because that's easier said than done, it helps to share stories that illustrate the ideas of self-examination and atonement. Here are two books with stories tied to most of the Jewish holidays; reading them aloud could become a new family tradition.

* "The Family Treasury of Jewish Holidays" by Malka Drucker, illustrated by Baltimorean Nancy Patz (Little, Brown and Company, $21.95, 192 pages, all ages) is a wonderful resource.

Ms. Drucker, whose books include "Grandma's Latkes" and "A Jewish Holiday ABC," writes in a conversational tone that makes the most complicated concepts easy to understand. She begins at the start of the year, Rosh Hashana, and proceeds through Yom Kippur, Sukkot, Simhat Torah, Hanukkah, Tu B'Sh'vat, Purim, Pesah, Shavuot, Yom HaShoah and Yom Ha'atzmaut, concluding with a chapter on Shabbat, the Sabbath.

In each chapter, she explains the holiday and tells a story or two that illustrates it. There are tales by Isaac Bashevis Singer, Sadie Rose Weilerstein, Amy Schwartz, David Adler, I. L. Peretz and Barbara Cohen, to name a few.

Ms. Drucker incorporates recipes for traditional foods and plenty of how-to instructions on everything from building a sukkah and playing dreidel to making groggers for Purim. There are words and music to songs, a script for performing Queen Esther's Story and excerpts from "Anne Frank: Diary of a Young Girl."

And Ms. Patz complements the text with lovely watercolors that were inspired by Hebrew illuminated manuscript paintings. The author and illustrator of "Moses Supposes His Toeses Are Roses" and "No Thumpin', No Bumpin', No Rumpus Tonight!" Ms. Patz did extensive research of Jewish art and history for this book. She modeled the borders for each chapter after a different text and dressed each chapter's characters in clothes that Jews wore at different times in various parts of the world. All of that information is dutifully noted at the back of the book.

Also at the back is a list of books recommended for further reading, a glossary that would be better if it included phonetic spellings and an expansive index.

* Nina Jaffe, whose work includes "In the Month of Kislev: A Story for Hanukkah" and "The Three Riddles -- A Jewish Folktale," has hit the mark again with "The Uninvited Guest And Other Jewish Holiday Tales," illustrated by Elivia (Scholastic, $15.95, 72 pages, all ages).

She presents seven stories -- one each for Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, Hanukkah, Purim, Passover and Shabbat. Before each chapter, she gives a one-page introduction to the holiday and the customs that accompany it. The tales are drawn from folklore and the oral tradition, and all make great read-aloud stories.

The Yom Kippur story, adapted from a tale by I. L. Peretz, is "Miracles on the Sea." It's about a poor fisherman named Satya who takes his boat out the afternoon before Yom Kippur, even though his friends had warned him a storm might be coming.

Satya catches sight of a golden fish and tries to catch it, only to have it elude his nets, cast after cast. Suddenly a storm blows in, just as Satya notices the sun is setting. He drops his oars, saying, "Come what may, I will not row on Yom Kippur!"

The storm doesn't scare him. He sings and prays, and an old man and old woman appear out of the mist to calm the waves and deliver him safely to shore.

The illustrations -- one full-page painting for each tale -- shine like jewels. At the back of the book, Ms. Jaffe details the origins of each story, explains the Jewish calendar and includes a glossary complete with pronunciation guides.

* No mention of books for the Jewish holidays would be complete without a note on Kar-Ben Copies Inc., a burgeoning publishing house that offers loads of titles in its 1995 mail-order catalog. For a copy of the catalog, call (800) 452-7236 or write Kar-Ben Copies, 6800 Tildenwood Lane, Rockville, Md. 20852.

Just out is "My Very Own Jewish Calendar for 5755," by Judye Groner and Madeline Wikler ($5.95). The 16-month calendar runs from September 1994 through December 1995 and contains Hebrew and Jewish dates, holidays in the United States and Canada and plenty of puzzles, recipes and trivia tidbits for each month.


Author and illustrator Steven Kellogg, whose books include "Island of the Skog," "Abby," "Pinkerton," "Jimmy's Boa," "Pecos Bill" and "Mike Fink," will appear from 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. today at the Children's Bookstore on Deepdene Road in Roland Park. Caldecott Medalist Gerald McDermott will be at the store from 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. Sept. 29.

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