Ms. Chester’s Book List – Diversity of Jewish Voices

Books with Themes Related to Black/Ethiopian and Sephardic Jewry

PB=picture book

M PB=mature picture book


* = has not yet arrived

Title Type Description
Yosef’s Dream PB Set against the backdrop of the airlift of Ethiopian Jews to Israel. A young Jewish boy in Ethiopia has a dream of flying on eagles wings to a new home. In this story of dreams, choices, and what it means to belong, Yosef and his family choose to fly to Israel, the land of their ancestors — fulfilling their long-held dream.
Yuvi’s Candy Tree PB The hardship many Ethiopian Jews faced to successfully reach Israel is recounted in the voice of a 5-year-old girl who escapes with her grandmother, determined to reach their destination. 
Always an Olivia PB An elderly black grandmother passes on the story of the family’s Jewish origins to her young granddaughter, Carol Olivia. As family members flee the Spanish Inquisition, are kidnapped by pirates and eventually sail to America, one daughter in each generation is given the name Olivia, from the Hebrew Shulamit meaning “peace,” to honor the Jewish part of their ancestry.
Abuelita’s Secret Matzahs PB Abuelita’s Secret Matzahs tells the fascinating and little-known story of the Cryptojews, while illustrating the universal importance of faith for people of all religious denominations. Jacobo loves to visit his abuelita, his grandmother, especially at Easter time. But Abuelita has a big secret. During semana santa, Holy Week, his grandmother never makes bread, only tortillas made without yeast. She never eats pork, and she lights two candles on Friday nights. But whenever Jacobo asks her questions, she answers, Ah, mijito, my child, it is the way of our family.” One day, Abuelita is finally ready to share her secret. “Sit with me on the porch. It is time to tell you the secret of our family . . .”
Hannukah Moon PB When Isobel is invited to Aunt Luisa’s for Hanukkah, she’s not sure what to expect. Aunt Luisa has recently arrived from Mexico. “At Aunt Luisa’s you’ll get to celebrate the Hanukkah Moon,” Isobel’s father promises. Isobel’s days at Aunt Luisa’s are filled with fun and surprises — a new camera, a dreidel pinata filled with sweets, and a mysterious late night visit to welcome the luna nueva, the new moon that appears on Hanukkah. An unusual Hanukkah story with a multi-cultural focus, this title celebrates a little-known custom of the Latin-Jewish community.
The Length of a String PB Imani knows exactly what she wants as her big bat mitzvah gift: to find her birth parents. She loves her family and her Jewish community in Baltimore, but she has always wondered where she came from, especially since she’s black and almost everyone she knows is white. Then her mom’s grandmother–Imani’s great-grandma Anna–passes away, and Imani discovers an old journal among her books. It’s Anna’s diary from 1941, the year she was twelve and fled Nazi-occupied Luxembourg alone, sent by her parents to seek refuge in Brooklyn, New York. Anna’s diary records her journey to America and her new life with an adoptive family of her own. And as Imani reads the diary, she begins to see her family, and her place in it, in a whole new way.
Jalapeno Bagels PB While trying to decide what to take for his school’s International Day, Pablo helps his Mexican mother and Jewish father at their bakery and discovers a food that represents both his parents’ backgrounds.
I love Jewish Faces PB I Love Jewish Faces sings the long overdue song of Jewish diversity with passion, honesty, and celebration. Not all Jewish faces resemble those of European Jews. I Love Jewish Faces affirms identity, embraces diversity, and celebrates Jewish life.
What Makes Someone a Jew? PB Is being Jewish a matter of how you look, or how you live? Using everyday examples that children can relate to, this colorful book helps all young Jewish readers understand what it really means to be a Jew. A fun way for children to develop a broader knowledge of Judaism and the Jewish People, this book gently guides children down their own path of Jewish spiritual discovery … and reminds us all that being Jewish is about our deeds, thoughts, and heart.
We are Jewish Faces PB Debra Darvick’s delightful picture book mirrors today’s emerging Jewish reality; a Jewish face is dark-haired and dark-eyed and blonde and blue-eyed. A Jewish face belongs to a Chinese adoptee and to a newborn from Guatemala. It is the face of an African American convert and that of a festively dressed bride from India.
Pumpkin Pie for Sigd PB Maddie has just moved to Israel and is excited to celebrate the Ethiopian Jewish holiday of Sigd with her new friend Orly. But what about her own favorite fall holiday, Thanksgiving? Will Maddie be able to celebrate it in her new country? She’s determined to find out! Together, Maddie and Orly go on a quest to find the ingredients for a delicious pumpkin pie and bring a taste of the United States to Israel. Along the way, they’ll discover how their two holidays (and they themselves) have so much in common. Includes a parent note about the holiday of Sigd and its underlying value of gratitude.
The Key from Spain PB This is the story of Ladino singer, Flory Jagoda. When Flory’s ancestors are forced to leave Spain during the time of the Spanish Inquisition, they take with them their two most precious possessions–the key to their old house and the Ladino language. When Flory flees Europe during World War II to begin a new life in the United States, she carries Ladino with her, along with her other precious possessions–her harmoniku and her music. But what of the key?
Joha Makes a Wish PB On his way to Baghdad, Joha discovers a wishing stick. But how does it work? Joha makes some wishes, and the opposites come true. His old sandals disappear when he wishes for a new pair. He carries a donkey on his back after wishing for a donkey to carry him. And when the sultan gets hold of the stick, things really get out of control. How will Joha learn its secrets before he wishes himself into more trouble?
A Persian Passover PB Ezra and Roza are helping to prepare for their Passover celebration. Ezra is proud to be in charge of bringing his family’s flour to the synagogue to be baked into matzah in a traditional wood-burning oven. But when Ezra makes a mistake and the matzah is ruined, what will he and his sister Roza, do? Join the siblings as they experience the sights, smells, sounds, and unique traditions of a seder in Iran of the 1950s.
The Secret Shofar of Barcelona M PB In the late 1500s, while the conductor of the Royal Orchestra of Barcelona prepares for a concert to celebrate Spain’s colonies in the New World, his son secretly practices playing the Shofar to help Sephardic Jews, who must hide their faith from the Inquisition, to celebrate Rosh Hashanah. 
On the Wings of Eagles M PB A Jewish Ethiopian boy recounts the story of Israel’s 1991 airlift rescue of his threatened people.
Day of Delight: A Jewish Sabbath in Ethiopia M PB Depicting a culture that is quickly vanishing, the story of the Ethiopian Jews is told through the eyes of a young boy as his family and friends prepare for the sabbath or “day of delight.”The spare, poetic text evokes an Ethiopian Jewish village as seen through the eyes of a villager boy on one Sabbath day.
My Basmati Bat Mitzvah F During the fall leading up to her bat mitzvah, Tara (Hindi for “star”) Feinstein has a lot more than her Torah portion on her mind. Between Hebrew school and study sessions with the rabbi, there doesn’t seem to be enough time to hang out with her best friend Ben-o–who might also be her boyfriend–and her other best friend, Rebecca, who’s getting a little too cozy with that snotty Sheila Rosenberg. Not to mention working on her robotics project with the class clown Ryan Berger, or figuring out what to do with a priceless heirloom sari that she accidentally ruined. Amid all this drama, Tara considers how to balance her Indian and Jewish identities and what it means to have a bat mitzvah while questioning her faith.
Stealing Home F Nine-year-old Yankee fan and Bronx native Joey Sexton is sent to Brooklyn after his mother’s death and finds himself battling prejudice in his own family, trying to win the acceptance of his white, Jewish grandfather, who looks down on him because he is half African-American.
Cry of the Giraffe F One girl’s harrowing trek from exile and slavery to hope in a new land — all based on a true story. Wuditu and her family risk their lives to make this journey, which leads them to a refugee camp in Sudan, where they are separated. Terrified, 15-year-old Wuditu makes her way back to Ethiopia alone. “Don’t give up, Wuditu! Be strong!” The words of her little sister come to Wuditu in a dream and give her the courage to keep going. Based on real events, Wuditu’s story mirrors the experiences of thousands of Ethiopian Jews.
Daughters of the Ark F This historical-fiction novel features two girls, separated in time by thousands of years, who are forced to leave their homes and make a dangerous journey to an unknown land. The story starts with Aleesha in 961 BCE as she and her family, descendants from the House of Israel, are sent from Jerusalem to join the Queen of Sheba in Ethiopia. Aleesha’s story is connected to that of Debritu’s, her distant descendant, by the tale of an emerald stolen from the ancient Holy Ark in King Solomon’s Temple and brought to Ethiopia. Passed on from generation to generation the precious stone comes under the care of Debritu. Debritu’s story takes place in 1984, as she journeys with her two brothers through the treacherous mountains of Ethiopia and the deserts of the Sudan. They must deal with bandits and famine before they reach Jerusalem, their new as well as ancestral home.
The Storyteller’s Beads F Running for their lives to escape the political upheaval in Ethiopia, two young girls from different faiths form an unlikely friendship.
*Saliman and the Memory Stone PB When young Saliman’s family left Yemen in 1881 to move to Jerusalem there were so many things they could not take along. Promising to remember it all, even the names of each their goats and the color of their fur, he clutched his memory stone, a piece of his house that he kept in his pocket, as a way to keep Yemen in his heart.
*A Persian Princess PB Sephardic Purim traditions take center stage in this sweet story of a girl and her grandmother and a Purim play
*Thank You, Modeh Ani PB We start the day ready to move, to dance, to wiggle, and to sing with joy in this book inspired by the Jewish prayers of gratitude for waking up to a new day. Modeh ani means “thank you,” or “I am grateful” in Hebrew. A cheerful introduction to the idea of daily gratitude, prayer and mindfulness for young children. Illustrations feature a variety of ages, ethnicities, and physical abilities. 
*Miryam’s Dance PB Ugandan artist John Baptist Tumuhaise brings a Jewish Ugandan village to life in this story of a young girl who is distracted from her Shabbat preparation chores by the lure of a dance troupe that comes to her village.

All summaries from Goodreads, & Follett

by: Rochelle Chester, Leo Baeck Day School Librarian

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