A Quick List of Jonah Stories


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Yom Kippur is a time in the Jewish calendar for reflection and forgiveness, looking back at the past year and our place in our communities. It is customary during the afternoon on Yom Kippur to read the story of Jonah, as Jonah and the people of Nineveh (Jonah's destination) have a lot to learn about their own desires and how to make amends.

This reflection, setting intentions to do better in the coming year, and apologizing to those we hold ourselves accountable to is a process known as teshuvah, or “to return.” Is there somewhere or someone you are thinking of returning to this Yom Kippur?

Picture Books

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.

by Tammar Stein

In this early reader chapter book, Jonah tries to run from God's commandment, setting off a dramatic sequence of events that involves a storm at sea, whale vomit, and a group hug.

Oh No, Jonah!
by Tilda Balsley

Recommended for ages 8 and up

The story of Jonah and the big fish never fails to capture imaginations -- or prod listeners to think about responsibility and community, which is why it's a great Yom Kippur read.

Scarlett & Sam: A Whale of a Tale
by Eric A. 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?

Discussion Questions

Every year the Book of Jonah is read aloud on Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) in synagogues around the world. In the original Bible story, Jonah is a prophet, which means it is his job to hear God's voice and give people instructions. But when God tells Jonah to travel to Nineveh and warn its residents to change their ways, Jonah initially sneaks away! The story of Jonah is both exciting and meaningful: It helps us think about whether we are ready to accept responsibility to make changes in our lives. After reading one of the stories above, use these questions to talk things over:

  • Do you think Jonah just has bad luck, or does he create bad situations for himself? Can you point to examples?

  • Do Jonah's actions make you think differently about the people chosen to be leaders in the Bible?

  • Was God right to forgive the people of Nineveh? Why or why not?


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A Yom Kippur Book List