By Alex MlynekUpdated Jul 21, 2021
By Elisabeth Kushner, Illustrated by Mike Byrne
Ages 4 to 9
Reading books where the characters just happen to be of a different race or religion is one way to show similarities between kids from all different backgrounds, which helps counter bias. In The Purim Superhero, Nate wants to dress up as an alien for Purim, a carnival-esque Jewish holiday, but his schoolmates want to dress like superheroes. Nate’s two dads help him come up with a solution.
By Michelle Edwards, Illustrated by G. Brian Karas
Ages 3 to 7
Mrs. Goldman, an older Jewish lady, and her neighbour, Sophia, a Latina girl, work together to make hats for everyone in their neighbourhood as a good deed. Mrs. Goldman knits them, while Sophia adds pom-poms. But one day Sophia surprises her friend with a hat of her own, which may not be perfect, but is made with love, and will keep her keppie (Yiddish for head) nice and warm.
Written and illustrated by Patricia Polacco
Neighbours Mrs. Katz, an older Jewish woman who came to America from Poland, and Larnel, a school-aged black boy, become fast friends when Larnel gives Mrs. Katz a kitten, whom she names Tush (Yiddish for rear end). During their frequent visits, Mrs. Katz talks about her life, including experiences with prejudice, and tells stories about her late husband over plates of kugel, a noodle pudding. Their years-long friendship is so sweetly portrayed, and there are parallels drawn between the histories of black and Jewish persecution.
By Ellen Bari, Illustrated by Raquel García Maciá
Ages 5 to 8
Jenny likes to jump around on her pogo stick, but it causes a lot of problems. But in the end, her jumping comes in handy when her class decides to raise money for a school in Uganda as a mitzvah, which is a Jewish word for a kindness. Kids will learn that difference can be a good thing, but also may recognize themselves in the main character.
By Janice Cohn, Illustrated by Bill Farnsworth
Ages 7 to 11
This book, illustrated with oil paintings, is based on the true story of how in 1993, a town came together to push back against hate crimes. After a rock is thrown through the window of a Jewish family’s home, in an act of solidarity for their neighbours, the people of Billings, Montana—many of whom aren’t Jewish—decide to place menorahs in their windows. This book offers an entry point into a discussion of the recent attacks faced by the Jewish community through bomb threats at Jewish community centres, daycares and vandalized gravestones, as well as a chance to talk about how people of all backgrounds can help each other.
By Rebecca O’Connell, Illustrated by Majella Lue Sue
When sixth grader Penina Levine’s public school teacher asks her class to write letters to kindergartners where they pretend they are the Easter Bunny, Levine, who is one of only two Jewish kids in her class, is faced with a choice: do the assignment as asked and compromise her religious principles, or risk getting a bad mark. She goes for the latter. Penina Levine is a Hard-boiled Egg offers insight into what it’s like to have to face consequences for standing up for your beliefs. It also gives readers a sense of the bias kids can encounter, even in a supposedly neutral place like school.
By Ken Mochizuki, Illustrated by Dom Lee
Ages 6 to 11
One way to introduce young readers to the Holocaust is by teaching them about the helpers that saved lives during that time. Chihune Sugihara was the Japanese consul to Lithuania, when in 1940 Jewish refugees from Poland arrived at the consulate trying to get visas to Japan so they could escape the Nazis. This book is based on the words of Sugihara’s son Hiroki, who was five years old when his father rescued an estimated 10,000 Jewish people by granting them travel papers, in spite of his home country’s orders not to do so.
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By Karen Hesse, Illustrated by Wendy Watson
Ages 8 to 10
This picture book introduces kids to the Jewish Resistance. Two young Jewish sisters who have escaped the Warsaw Ghetto in Poland come up with a plan—at risk to their own lives—to sneak food into the ghetto to their friends by distracting the Gestapo with the help of cats.
By Meg Wiviott, Illustrated by Josée Bisaillon
Ages 7 to 11
The Kristallnacht, or the Night of Broken Glass, was a series of pogroms that took place across the Reich. Benno and the Night of Broken Glass introduces kids to this event by looking at life in Berlin through the eyes of a cat (Benno) before the Kristallnacht, and after.
By David A. Adler, Photographs by Rose Eichenbaum
Ages 3 to 8
This is a story shown through a series of black and white photographs and text about a young granddaughter who finds out that the number tattooed on her grandfather’s arm meant he was a survivor from the Auschwitz concentration camp. She then gently encourages him to show people these numbers. This book is praised for teaching kids about the Holocaust in a way that gives them age-appropriate information.
By Eve Bunting, Illustrated by Stephen Gammell
Ages 6 +
Everything is going well in the clearing in the woods, until the Terrible Things (which here represent the Nazis) come along and start taking creatures away; first the birds and then finally the rabbits, who thought themselves safe until it was their turn. This is a book that shows the importance of doing what’s right as soon as you see something bad happening, even if you believe this bad thing isn’t going to affect you.
By Karen Gray Ruelle, Illustrated by Deborah Durland DeSaix
Another title about helpers, this book, which details how Jewish people were sheltered in the Grand Mosque of Paris and given aid with safe passage when the city was occupied by Nazis, seems particularly relevant given what marginalized groups are facing today.