Books That Help Children Understand Forgiveness

Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, also known as the High Holidays, are right around the corner. One of the themes of the High Holidays is forgiveness – of others and of one's self. From the beginning to the end of the holidays, people are encourage to think about affecting positive change as individuals and as a community by making amends with others. 

The stories listed below help children learn and understand the concept of forgiveness. We’ve also included two suggestions from PJ Our Way for older readers and children ready for chapter books and heavier topics.

Benjamin and the Silver Goblet

Benjamin and the Silver Goblet by Jacqueline Jules

Recommended for ages 6-7

When drought envelopes Canaan, Jacob sends his sons to Egypt, where they unexpectedly encounter Joseph, the brother they sold into slavery years earlier. How will Joseph react, now that he has power and authority?

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.

Happy New Year, Beni

Happy New Year, Beni by Jane Zalben

Recommended for ages 3-4

Beni loves getting together with family on Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year -- if only it weren’t for his mischievous cousin, Max. Max is making trouble for everyone! But Grandpa has a few words of wisdom about starting off the New Year right.

The Hardest Word by Jacqueline Jules

Recommended for ages 5- 6

The Ziz, a clumsy and big-hearted bird, asks God for advice after accidentally destroying a vegetable garden. From this, Ziz learns the importance of an apology.

New Year at the Pier by April Halprin Wayland

Recommended for ages 6-7

In this contemporary story, Izzy finds it difficult to apologize for a certain mistake, until the Rosh Hashanah tashlich service gives him new understanding.

Oh No, Jonah!

Oh No, Jonah! by Tilda Balsley

Recommended for ages 8+

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.

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.

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.”

Tashlich at Turtle Rock by Susan Schnur

Recommended for ages 7-8

On Rosh Hashanah, many families participate in tashlich, a tradition of throwing bread crumbs into water to wash away the mistakes of the past year. But this family has their own spin on tashlich -- and it takes place at Turtle Rock.

Suggestions for Older Readers (ages 9+)

How to Survive Middle School by Donna Gephart

Recommended for ages 10+

David Greenberg’s big dream is to become a TV host like Jon Stewart, and he's well on his way: home videos that he has posted on YouTube featuring his cute hamster and acne-plagued older sister have become an internet sensation. But as his online popularity soars, his real life gets increasingly worse: he is picked on by the school bully; he fights with his best friend; and he misses his mom, who has left the family to resolve her own issues. How to Survive Middle School is a sweet coming-of-age book about friendship, family, and following one’s dreams.

Under the Domim Tree

Under the Domim Tree by Gila Almagor

Recommended for ages 11+

This book is a special selection for Yom Ha’Shoah (Holocaust Memorial Day). Can you imagine living in a youth village, with no parents telling you what to do all the time? Aviya, Yola, and Mira do, but it's not as easy as you might think...This is a powerful and emotional story about three girls who live together after World War II. It is a story of hope and friendship and the power of forgiveness.

Did you read one of these stories with your family? Do you have a favorite story that you read to prepare for Rosh Hashanah or Yom Kippur? Tell us about it on Facebook.

« Find more activities, book lists, and recipes