9 Children's Books About Yom Kippur

Yom Kippur is one of the most important days in the Jewish year, but explaining its meaning and traditions to children can be complicated. Yom Kippur is a special day set aside for thinking about our actions of the past year and how we can improve ourselves in the new year. Talking about Yom Kippur with kids can feel intimidating--it's the holiest day of the Jewish year! We end the day on Yom Kippur feeling happy and relieved, knowing we're starting the year with new possibilities.

If your family is at home for Yom Kippur this year, you may want to start your day with music or prayers, or stories and quiet conversation. You can pick a PJ Library  or PJ Our Way book talk about forgiveness or having the courage to change. Some suggestions follow below:

Jonah Stories

On Yom Kippur, the culmination of a season of self-reflection in the Jewish calendar, one prays for forgiveness for errors of the past year and considers how to change for the better in the coming year. This process is known as teshuvah, which literally means “to return.” The Book of Jonah is traditionally read on the afternoon of Yom Kippur – fitting, because of the intense desire that the people of Nineveh (Jonah's destination) had to repent and change their ways.

The Book of Jonah

The Book of Jonah by Peter E. Spier 

Recommended for ages  8 and up

It’s the classic story of Jonah and the great fish, retold in synagogues every year on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. Jonah doesn’t want to do what God tells him, and tries to run away -- but ultimately he learns there’s no real way to run from your responsibilities.

Oh No, Jonah! by  Tilda Balsey

Recommended for ages 8 and up

Another take on the classic Jonah story with lively illustrations.

Scarlett and Sam: A Whale of a Tale by Eric Kimmel

Recommended for ages 8 and up

Scarlett and Sam keep going back in time. Their Grandma Mina has a magical carpet that keeps landing them in back in Biblical days. This time the twins find themselves following around a crazy guy named Jonah who seems to be on the run. But why?

Books About Yom Kippur Traditions

What happens on Yom Kippur? What are some ways that kids can participate? These stories feature children experiencing and talking about different facets of Yom Kippur together. 

Sam & Charlie (and Sam Too) by Leslie Kimmelman

Recommended for ages 5-6

New neighbors have moved in next door to Sam -- two girls named Charlie and Sam (too!). As the three of them become friends, they share jokes, Jewish holidays, and even misunderstandings -- and soon learn what it means to “love your neighbor as yourself.” The "I'm Sorry Day" chapter is a great primer on Yom Kippur for younger children.


Sammy Spider's First Yom Kippur by Sylvia Rouss

Recommended for ages 3 to 4

Sammy Spider loves watching the Shapiro family celebrate the Jewish holidays. He's a spider, so he can't always take part, but he always learns a lot. On Yom Kippur he learns something very important: the value of an apology.


Stories About Forgiveness

Engineer Ari and the Rosh Hashanah Ride

Engineer Ari and the Rosh Hashanah Ride by Deborah Bodin Cohen

Recommended for ages 4-5

Israel’s first train chugs from Jaffa to Jerusalem just in time for Rosh Hashanah, taking treats to children for a sweet new year and seeing sights all along the way.

Learn more about Why We Chose This Book.

Gershon’s Monster

Gershon’s Monster by Eric Kimmel

Recommended for ages 6-7

Instead of dealing with his mistakes, Gershon the baker sweeps them into the cellar. In this retelling of a Hasidic legend, Gershon eventually discovers a better way of living.

Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse

Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse by Kevin Henkes

Recommended for ages 6 to 7

Lilly loves her purse -- but when she disrupts class with it, her teacher has to take it away for a while. Lilly doesn't react so well... and soon she's going to have to learn how to say two of the most important words: "I'm sorry."

Red, Blue and Yellow Yarn: A Tale of Forgiveness

Red, Blue and Yellow Yarn: A Tale of Forgiveness by Miriam Kosman

Recommended for ages 4-5

Danny’s grandmother is very prim and proper -- and Danny is neither. He thinks that she doesn’t like him. But when Danny makes a big mistake, Bubbie surprises him -- and shows him the love and forgiveness that is passed down generation after generation.

Looking for an activity to pair with this book? Check out the Yarn Eggs in our post 12 Fall Activities with a Jewish Twist.


7 Books That Help Children Learn to Say “I’m Sorry”
Books That Help Children Understand Forgiveness
Four Simple Ways For Kids To Participate On Yom Kippur