Cheryl F. Coon is the author of Books to Grow With: A Guide to the Best Children's Fiction for Everyday Issues and Tough Challenges. Cheryl lives with her husband and children in Portland, Ore.
Adult Subjects in Children's Books
Jewish Lights Publishing, a small press in Woodstock, Vt., knows something simple but important about books for kids. Combine good stories or interesting content with illustrations that captivate and hold kids' attention, and you've got a keeper. Jewish Lights is willing to go the extra mile to achieve attention-getting visuals, something readers cannot take for granted in a time of spiraling costs for color illustrations.
Review of But God Remembered, by Sandy Eisenberg Sasso, illustrated by Bethanne Andersen (Jewish Lights, 1995).
But God Remembered is a feminist collection of stories about four fascinating women from the Old Testament: Lilith, Serach, Bityah and Zelophehad. I wish I had been able to read this fascinating collection as a child, when I often was interested in the women in the stories but unable to find any information about them. Lillith, tradition tells us, was Adam's first wife. In But God Remembered, Lillith's story involving her departure from the Garden of Eden is all about her quest for equality. Serach, the granddaughter of Jacob, has a musical talent that leads to the responsibility and honor of telling Jacob that Joseph is still alive. Perhaps the most unusual tale is of Zelophehad, whose five daughters, after the death of their father, ask Moses to inherit their father's land, since he left no sons. Because Moses cannot make the decision, the daughters speak directly to God, who grants them a place in the Promised Land. The illustrations for this intriguing collection of stories are dramatic and colorful and will appeal to all ages, although the stories are geared for ages 9 to 12.
Review of The Kids' Fun Book of Jewish Time, by Emily Sper (Jewish Lights, 2006).
I'm looking forward to sharing The Kids' Fun Book of Jewish Time with my 4-year-old niece, who will undoubtedly be captivated by the bright colors and appealing wheels, lift-the-flaps and pull tabs. It's a clever lesson about the origins of the Hebrew calendar and a chance to talk about Jewish holidays, best suited for ages 4 to 8.
Review of God's Paintbrush, by Sandy Eisenberg Sasso, illustrated by Annette Compton (Jewish Lights, 1992, reprinted 2004).
God's Paintbrush addresses a far weightier subject than the other two books. It explores nothing less than the nature of God.
Our personal relationship with God is a profound matter that can be debated and discussed for far longer than the length of time it takes to read God's Paintbrush. Compton's illustrations of multicultural characters juxtaposed against text can be distracting. But in the 10th anniversary edition of Sasso's classic, the questions are ones which will linger in your child's mind and come up at the dinner table. Can you be God's friend? Is there anything that makes God cry? Does God change?
As interfaith families look for ways to be inclusive, to share the joys of the Jewish calendar, and to ponder the questions that Talmudic scholars debate, these selections from Jewish Lights Publishing are worth finding.