On One Foot by Linda Glaser, illustrated by Nuria Balaguer

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on one foot_web.jpgAJL Notable Book 2017. This is the famous Jewish fable of a young man who challenges the great sage Rabbi Hillel to teach him the entire Torah while standing on one foot. Hillel cleverly responds, “Do not do to others what you do not want them to do to you. That is the whole Torah—the rest is commentary.” This picture book, while not crediting its Talmudic source, is an expansion of that incident, offering motivation for the odd request and showing the student experiencing reciprocal behaviors during his quest for the perfect teacher. The collage illustrations are filled with clever and even irreverent touches; all the characters’ noses are made from Hebrew texts, and the elders’ beards are fashioned from materials that range from torn brown paper to snippets of mesh.

Not This Turkey! by Jessica Steinberg, illustrated by Amanda Pike

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not this turkey.jpgAJL Notable Book 2017. Although Mel and his family have lived in America for several years, they have never celebrated Thanksgiving, just the Jewish holidays. But this year, after papa wins a turkey at work, Mama invites all their relatives to their Brooklyn tenement for dinner. But, after finding out that the old turkey is too tough to eat, the family solves the problem by asking all the guests bring their country’s own special traditional food to the meal. The new immigrants are thankful to be celebrating their first Thanksgiving together, with or without the traditional turkey.

Gabriel’s Horn by Eric Kimmel illustrated by Maria Surducan

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gabriels horn_webAJL Notable Book 2017. On the eve of Rosh Hashanah, an African-American soldier knocks at on the door of a Jewish family’s antiques store and hands the boy Gabriel an old neglected horn that belonged to the enlisted man’s grandfather, requesting that the antiques-store owners keep it during his deployment. Kimmel has updated his story “The Samovar” about the legendary character Elijah who can take on numerous disguises—like a soldier—to help and influence those less fortunate. The czarist Russian setting is remade into a contemporary American integrated urban community. Over the years Gabriel engages in tzedakah and the horn magically brightens each time until it’s gleaming shine represents Gabriel’s family’s acts of kindness and new prosperity.

Chicken Soup, Chicken Soup by Pamela Mayer, illustraed by Deborah Melmon

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chicken soup_webAJL Notable Book 2017. “Two Grandmas. Two delicious recipes. And one granddaughter caught in the middle. Sophie loves Bubbe’s Jewish chicken soup made with kreplach. She also loves Nai Nai’s Chinese chicken soup, with wonton. But don’t tell Bubbe and Nai Nai that their soups are the same. The grandmothers are miffed when Sophie calls the dumplings in their soups by the wrong terminology. The grandmothers are quick to point out the differences between kreplach and wonton, but Sophie has a plan to show her elders how good a mixture of “a little Jewish, a little Chinese—a lot like me” can be.

A Hat for Mrs. Goldman by Michelle Edwards, illustrated by Brian G. Karas

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A Hat for Mrs Goldman_web.jpgAJL Sydney Taylor Honor Book 2017. Mrs. Goldman always knits hats for everyone in the neighborhood, and Sophia, who thinks knitting is too hard, helps by making the pom-poms. But now winter is here, and Mrs.Goldman herself doesn’t have a hat—she’s too busy making hats for everyone else! It’s up to Sophia to buckle down and knit a hat for Mrs. Goldman. But try as Sophia might, the hat turns out lumpy, the stitches aren’t all even and there are holes where there shouldn’t be holes. Sophia is devastated until she gets and idea that will make Mrs. Goldman’s hat the most wonderful of all.

Paper Hearts by Meg Wiviott

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paper hearts_web.jpgAn act of defiance.
A statement of hope.
A crime punishable by death.

Making a birthday card in Auschwitz was all of those things. But that is what Zlatka did, in 1944, for her best friend, Fania. She stole and bartered for paper and scissors, secretly creating an origami heart. Then she passed it to every girl at the work tables to sign with their hopes and wishes for happiness, for love, and most of all—for freedom.

Fania knew what that heart meant, for herself and all the other girls. And she kept it hidden, through the bitter days in the camp and through the death marches. She kept it always.

This novel is based on the true story of Fania and Zlatka, the story of the bond that helped them both to hope for the best in the face of the worst. Their heart is one of the few objects created in Auschwitz and can be seen today in the Montreal Holocaust Memorial Centre.

The Path of Names by Ari Goelman

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the path of names_web.jpgThirteen-year-old Dahlia’s reluctance about attending Camp Arava changes to wonder as strange things begin to happen, and soon she is connecting with David Schank, a student of the kabbala, and the maze he built at the camp in the 1930s.