While I am not Jewish, I believe that all traditions that bring people and families together and remind us of what is important in our lives are of great value. As a children's bookseller and now elementary school librarian, I am always on the lookout for picture books that celebrate all holidays and traditions, especially when they are beautifully illustrated and short enough to be read out lout at story time. Here is the World: A Year of Jewish Holidays written by Lesléa Newman and colorfully, joyously illustrated by Susan Gal is exactly the kind of book I wish there were more of, for all traditions and holidays, religious or otherwise.
Newman's text is wonderfully rhymed, and you almost want to sing it when reading out loud. While focusing on the holidays, Newman and Gal create a visual narrative by beginning Here is the World: A Year of Jewish Holidays in the fall with the naming ceremony for a baby girl. This is especially apt because it allows for the book to begin with the words, "Here are your parents, with arms open wide, / Here are your siblings, to stand by your side," emphasizing the embracing, familial center of the holidays. This is followed by a Shabbat candle lighting, dinner and a visit to the synagogue, which is "open to all."
Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, Simchat Torah, Chanukah, Tu B'Shevat, Purim, Passover and Shavout follow. Here is the World: A Year of Jewish Holidays ends where it began, with Shabbat. Now it is the tail end of summer and the family, the baby from the start of the book now walking and almost a year old, outside on a warm, firefly-filled night. The final lines of the book echoing these changes, "Here is the world, Ever-chaning and new, / Spinning with joy at the wonder of you!"
Here is the World: A Year of Jewish Holidays includes a fantastic section at the end of the book that, along with more detailed, historical descriptions of the holidays represented, features holiday recipes and crafts that are very do-able!
Source: Review Copy