Better than Bible stories.

Author:Pinkwater, Daniel
Position::CHILDREN'S FICTION ROUND-UP
 
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There weren't many American children's books with Jewish content when I first took up reading, roughly 70 years ago. I was able to work my way through the children's room at the Lake View Branch of the Chicago Public Library and never encounter a fellow Hebrew until I was old enough to read Oliver Twist. I do remember a book with a blue cover, stories from the history of the Jewish people. You'd think I would remember the title, as I received copies of the very same book on three different Hanukkahs. It was the earnest and boring work of some distinguished person, a rabbi or educator probably, who must have thought, "I have several degrees. How hard could it be to write a children's book?"

I also have a vague memory of a book with illustrations--people in boots, beards and babushkas, tales from the shtetl, more pleasant than the history book, but no competition for Goodnight Moon or The Story of Ferdinand and, later, Captain Nemo, Leatherstocking, the Musketeers and Sherlock Holmes. None of these books advanced any notion of Jewishness, although Holmes was urban, wore his hat indoors and played the violin, but that was grasping at straws.

It's all very different today. To begin with, there are simply many more children's books: In 2014, children's fiction surpassed the adult fiction market with 843 million units sold. And those books make more money.

With the great increase in titles published, more categories are contemplated, and the idea that books should reflect the condition of the readers is favored everywhere. There are books for kids with siblings, without siblings, with single parents, with two male parents. There are books for kids who are straight, gay, transgender, and all and any varieties of sexual expression now known or yet to be discovered, and kids of every imaginable race, ethnicity and faith. Not a bad thing, all in all--provided the writing is good.

In selecting books for your children, the main thing I would look for is the children themselves, exploring among the shelves of the bookstore or library. Here are examples of some recent books that I would have been interested in discovering--with one exception--in the children's room of my branch library.

GABRIEL'S HORN

by Eric A. Kimmel

illustrated by Maria Surducan

Kar-Ben Publishing

Eric Kimmel is the real deal, and an outstanding...

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