Children's and Middle Grade Books That Mirror the Diversity of Jewish Communities

Looking for a Jewish book to read with your family or on your own? Check out this list of books featuring diverse characters, inter-cultural friendships, and stories about important Jewish values like learning from each other, welcoming others, and respecting differences

Related: Resources For Talking With Children About Race and Racism

Books For Babies

Antlers With Candles by Chris Barash

Everything looks new when seen from a child’s perspective, including menorahs, dreidels, and latkes. But family togetherness is something everyone understands.


Buen Shabat, Shabbat Shalom  by Sarah Aroeste

Join this Sephardic family as they gather together to light candles, drink wine and grape juice, eat challah, and wish one another a Buen Shabat!


Fridays Are Special by Chris Barash

Follow along with a little boy as he celebrates Shabbat with his large, diverse, family.


My Face Book by Star Bright Books

Babies adore looking at faces -- whether they’re smiling or frowning, all expressions are captivating. This book offers up some Hebrew while also presenting a variety of fascinating baby faces. Your little one will want to “read” these faces again and again!


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.


Sign Language Shabbat by Alisa Greenbacher & Jennifer Rosner

Many families celebrate Shabbat with special meals at home or with friends. The children in this book are signing words for some of the things people do on Shabbat, such as eat challah (braided egg bread), drink wine or grape juice, sing Shabbat songs, and read books. No matter how you and your loved ones choose to mark Shabbat, sharing quality time together is the best part


We Are Jewish Faces by Debra B. Darvick

The book overflows with clear, colorful images of faces of all ages and ethnicities dancing the hora at a wedding, hugging a Torah, eating matzah, blowing a shofar, lighting a menorah, hula hooping, and playing musical instruments. Yemenite, Asian, African American, and Caucasian faces giggle, smile, frown, and celebrate joyous moments on the playful pages of this gentle rhyming book.


Picture Books

Chicken Soup, Chicken Soup by Pamela Mayer

Sophie has two Grandmas from two different cultures, and they each make their own kind of chicken soup -- and each soup is delicious! The more Sophie learns about those soups, the more she realizes how similar they actually are -- on many levels.


Chik Chak Shabbat by Mara Rockliff

Everyone in Goldie Simcha’s apartment building knows it’s Friday night when they smell her delicious Shabbat cholent. But one Friday night, Goldie doesn’t feel well enough to cook. Her neighbors step up to create a very special Shabbat potluck for the entire building to enjoy together.


The Forever Garden

The Forever Garden by Laurel Snyder

Honey takes care of her garden every day -- even though she's going to be moving away soon. Laurel, her neighbor next door, knows she's going to miss her. But Honey explains to her that friendship, like her garden, has a way of growing -- despite time and distance.


A Hat for Mrs. Goldman

A Hat for Mrs. Goldman by Michelle Edwards

Mrs. Goldman takes care of everyone in the neighborhood, including her young neighbor, Sophia. When Mrs. Goldman gets sick, Sophia creates a special “get well” present with a very personal touch.


Maya Prays for Rain by Susan Tarcov 

It’s a beautiful day in Maya’s neighborhood -- and her neighbors have sunny-day activities planned. But it’s Shemini Atzeret, and that means Jews the world over will pray for rain. Maya is worried -- will this ruin the day for her friends.


A Hat for Mrs. Goldman

A Poem for Peter by Andrea Davis Pinkney

When Ezra Jack Keats was growing up, he knew what it was like to feel different and left out. So when he created his famous picture book, A Snowy Day, he had an idea about how to write and draw his main character, Peter.


Queen of the Hanukkah Dosas by Pamela Ehrenberg

Instead of latkes, this family celebrates Hanukkah with tasty Indian dosas. To her brother's chagrin, little Sadie won't stop climbing on everything both at home and at the Indian grocery store, even while preparing the dosas. As the family puts the finishing touches on their holiday preparations, they accidentally get locked out of the house. Sadie and her climbing skills just may be exactly what is needed to save the day.

 

Yaffa and Fatima: Shalom and Salaam

Yaffa and Fatima: Shalom and Salaam by Fawzia Gilani-Williams

Yaffa and Fatima are dear friends, despite coming from different backgrounds. When times get tough, how will they look after each other? This rendition of a classic Jewish folktale is an inspiring look at how friendship perseveres.
 


Yaffa and Fatima: Shalom and Salaam

Yuvi's Candy Tree by Lesley Simpson

Plucky Yuvi, a little Jewish girl living in Ethiopia, dreams of a place where candy grows on trees. Based on a true story, this book tells of Yuvi’s extraordinary journey to Israel with her grandmother -- a passage from famine and fear to oranges and freedom.


Middle Grade Books For Tweens and Teens

My Basmati Bat Mitzvah

 by Paula J. Freedman

Tara Feinstein’s decision to celebrate her bat mitzvah is making her life really complicated. What would her beloved Nanaji say? Does she really believe in God? And why is her best friend Ben-o acting so weird around her?


The Length of a String

 by Elissa Brent Weissman

As the only black girl at Hebrew school, Imani’s less than curious about her adoptive family’s Jewish history, and more than a little curious about her own. How can she find out about her birth family without hurting her mom’s feelings?


Lucky Broken Girl by Ruth Behar

10-year-old Ruthie and her family are Jewish-Cuban immigrants who emigrate to the United States when Castro comes to power. Soon afterwards, a car accident leaves Ruthie in a body cast for a year. Ruthie’s fears that she will never walk again, her good friend’s awkwardness with her illness, and Ruthie’s struggles to keep her own spirits up add depth and complexity to this beautifully written book, which is based on the author’s childhood and gives a fascinating glimpse into the world of Jewish-Cuban immigrant life in 1960s New York.


Skating With The Statue of Liberty

 by Susan Lynn Meyer

Skating with the Statue of Liberty By: Susan Lynn Meyer Historical Fiction Gustave’s family has made it to America, but life isn’t as easy as he thought it would be. His accent and clothes are weird, and everyone disapproves of his friendship with Seppie. Should he stick by her, or do what it takes to fit in?


Stealing Home

 by Ellen Schwartz

Baseball is a great escape, but can it solve your problems? Nine year-old Joey Sexton has to grow up fast – his African American dad is gone, his Jewish mother just died, and now he has been sent to live with his mother’s family in Brooklyn. Joey’s zayde (grandfather) acts as though Joey can’t do anything right. Sure, Joey can play a mean game of baseball, but is that enough to impress the person whose affection he wants most?


The Storyteller's Beads

 by Jane Kurtz

Sahay and Rahel are all alone, traveling through strange and dangerous territory in Ethiopia, trying to reach Jerusalem.


Too Far From Home

 by Naomi Shmuel

When her mom gets a big promotion, Meskerem must leave her beloved home and start school in a new town far away. As if that’s not bad enough, now she’s the only kid of color in the entire fifth grade! Will she ever fit in and make friends?

The Truth About My Bat Mitzvah by Nora Raleigh Baskin

When her beloved grandmother, Nana, dies and leaves her a Star of David necklace, Caroline becomes curious about her Jewish identity. She thinks she might want a Bat Mitzvah like her best friend Rachel, but what is a Bat Mitzvah anyway, and what will her non-Jewish dad think?


The Whole Story of Half A Girl by Veera Hiranandani

Sixth grader, Sonia Nadhamuni, is half-Jewish and half-South Asian. When her father loses his job, she is forced to switch from a private, alternative school that she loves, to the local public school. Sonia struggles to understand herself and her Jewish identity, particularly in her relationships with Alisha (an African American aspiring writer) and Kate (a popular cheerleader).


For Grown-Ups

The Art of Leaving by Ayelet Tsabari

Summary An intimate memoir in essays by an award-winning Israeli writer who travels the world, from New York to India, searching for love, belonging, and an escape from grief following the death of her father when she was a young girl...With fierce, emotional prose, Tsabari crafts a beautiful meditation about the lengths we will travel to try to escape our grief, the universal search to find a place where we belong, and the sense of home we eventually find within ourselves. Description from the author's website.


Color Me In by Natasha Díaz

Color Me In is a coming of age story about Nevaeh, a white passing, biracial, Jewish 15-year-old, who learns how to own her privilege as she searches for her place within her two very different worlds and prepares for a belated bat mitzvah. Description from the author's website.


The Color of Love: A Story of a Mixed-Race Jewish Girl by Mar­ra B. Gad

The Color of Love explores the idea of yerusha, which means "inheritance" in Yiddish. At turns heart-wrenching and heartwarming, this is a story about what you inherit from your family--identity, disease, melanin, hate, and most powerful of all, love. With honesty, insight, and warmth, Marra B. Gad has written an inspirational, moving chronicle proving that when all else is stripped away, love is where we return, and love is always our greatest inheritance. Summary excerpt from Goodreads.com.


The Cooking Gene by Michael W. Twitty

The Cooking Gene by Michael W. Twitty

A culinary historian travels the routes of his ancestors in the Old South, immersing himself in a complex weaving of food history and politics, genealogy and genetics, and discovers on the way surprising truths about family, identity, and the destiny of the Southern table. Description from the author's website


The Last Brother by Nathacha Appanah

Summary placeholde In the remote forests of Mauritius, young Raj is almost oblivious of the Second World War raging beyond his tiny exotic island. With only his mother for company while his father works as a prison guard, solitary ever since his brothers died years ago, Raj thinks only of making friends.
One day, the far-away world comes to Mauritius, and Raj meets David, a Jew exiled from his home in Europe and imprisoned in the camp where Raj's father works. David becomes the friend that he has always longed for, a brother to replace those he has lost. Raj knows that he must help David to escape. As they flee through sub-tropical landscapes and devastating storms, the boys battle hunger and malaria - and forge a friendship only death can destroy. The Last Brother is a powerful, poetic novel that sheds new light on a little-explored aspect of 20th-century history. Description via Google Books.


More

7 Books for Babies and Toddlers That Celebrate Diversity
How to Raise Anti-Racist Jewish Kids via kveller.com
What's Jewish About Respecting Differences?

 

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