Tag Archives: family

The Tattered Prayer Book by Ellen Bari

One Sunday, when Ruthie is visiting her grandparents, she discovers a box labeled GERMANY.  After looking with her grandmother at pictures of a beautiful house, the little girl finds a damaged book.  When she asks her Grandma about it, Ruthie learns that it is a siddur (a prayerbook), and it is her father’s.

This discovery prompts Ruthie to ask her father to share the story of the siddur.  “Years ago my family lived in Hamburg,” he begins.  “We had a large house and many family parties.  I loved being surrounded by all my cousins.  Our family had many friends, both Jews and non-Jews.”  But this happy existence was not to last for, as the Nazis came into power, Jewish businesses lost customers, and Jews could no longer go to the library or to school.  After the horrible events of November, 1938 (which came to be known as Kristallnacht), the distraught boy found a torn and partially burned siddur in the ruins of his synagogue.  The prayerbook gave him solace as things went from bad to worse and members of his extended family painfully parted.  “Some were going to Argentina, and others to Israel…As the ship pulled away from the dock, I felt like it was floating on a sea of tears.”  When the boy showed his mother the siddur on the ship after she lit the Sabbath candles, she told him, “This will remind you of the good life we had.  Remembering our past gives us the strength to face the future.” 

And on another Shabbat night, Ruthie’s father expresses his gratitude for his daughter’s question–and Ruthie responds that she is grateful for the answer.

Ellen Bari’s eloquent story relates the horrors of the Holocaust in a manner that brings the nightmare years to life, yet does not present the events in a way that is too graphic for young children.  Youngsters will relate to Ruthie’s desire to know more about her family’s history and to her father’s wish to put the past behind him.  Avi Katz’s expressive illustrations perfectly fit the mood of the tale.  The cream-colored, bordered pages with delicate shading give the book an old-fashioned feel.  An added bonus: lamination will ensure that Ruthie’s family story will last through many a reading and sharing.  Ages 6-10  

Published by Gihon River Press in 2013

Read more reviews and buy The Tattered Prayer Book on Amazon: The Tattered Prayer Book (Mom’s Choice Awards Recipent)

Mia and Bravo, Mia! by Laurence Yep

Mia St. Clair is ten years old. The only girl in a family of boys, she has grown up playing hockey. Yet Mia yearns to do—and be—something different from her older brothers. Figure skating seems to be the perfect choice for someone who loves being on the ice. However, it’s not smooth sailing. Coach Nelson, who recently left and is being replaced by someone new, only mentioned her mistakes. She has to deal with Vanessa, a member of the skate team who is everything Mia is not—wealthy, with a perfect complexion—and she acts the part. (If it’s any consolation, everyone has the same opinion of Vanessa.) It’s a struggle to have to work at the rink to pay for ice time, but if her brothers can do it, so can Mia.

When Emma Schubert enters the scene as the Lucerne Skate Club’s new coach, things begin to change. There are bumps in the ice, but Mia begins to think that the golden dream of competition might be hers. Setbacks, foibles, and misunderstandings (some of which are more humorous than serious) only make the spunky ten-year-old more determined to come out a winner.

Laurence Yep, the multitalented author of picture books, fantasies, historical fiction, and more, has once again shown his versatility with these contributions to the American Girls series. As kids cheer the young heroine on, they can’t help being uplifted and inspired. From the first page, Mia skates her way into the hearts of her readers. Ages 8-11

Published by American Girl in 2008

Read more reviews and buy Mia and Bravo, Mia! on Amazon: Mia (American Girl) Bravo, Mia! (American Girl)

Mostly Monty by Johanna Hurwitz

Monty is beginning first grade.  While this is an exciting time for many kids, this isn’t the case for the six-year-old.  The reason?  Monty doesn’t have what many other children do: a pet, siblings, or a friend.  However, he does have something he wishes he didn’t: asthma. “Because of his asthma, he wasn’t allowed to go running around like other kids.  He couldn’t join the Little League team.  He couldn’t plan to go to sleepaway camp when he got older.  Who would want to be friends with a boy like him?”   So, Monty is one very unhappy little boy.

However, there are some other special qualities Monty does have: an incredible reading ability and knack for finding things.  As he makes his way through the world of first grade, he discovers that he has what it takes to be a success–and a good friend.

Johanna Hurwitz’ sensitive and quietly humorous beginning chapter book will resonate with many kids, especially those uncertain about making friends, fitting in, and succeeding.  (That includes most of us.)  Chapters are broken up by well-spaced breaks.  Anik McGrory’s expressive water-color pictures adeptly illustrate the life of the first-grader.  Especially poignant are two scenes: Monty sitting inside while, outside the window, other kids are running and playing, and the little boy using his inhaler, surrounded by inquisitive classmates. Whether or not a child lives with a disability, he or she will find a kindred spirit in Monty.  Readers can experience more of the world through Monty’s eyes: Mighty Monty and Magical Monty continue the adventure of discovery of one very special little boy.  96 pages.  Ages 6-9.

Published by Candlewick Press in 2007

Read more reviews and buy Mostly Monty and its sequels on Amazon: Mostly Monty: First Grader
Mighty Monty: More First-Grade Adventures
Magical Monty

A Mango-Shaped Space by Wendy Mass

Mia is thirteen years old.  However, she is not like other kids.  In fact, Mia is not like anyone she knows.  For the eighth-grader perceives the world differently from most people.  Letters, numbers, names, sounds, and even living things have their own colors.  Since third grade, when nobody took her seriously, Mia has kept this a secret–from her parents, her siblings, and even her best friend, Jenna.

Until now.  Never a good student when it came to math, Mia finds the colors she sees when looking at numbers and letters in equations too distracting–and describes her condition to her incredulous parents.  Trips to a pediatrician and a counselor finally lead the confused girl and her parents to Dr. Jerry Weiss, a neurologist who gives Mia’s “disorder” a name: synesthesia.  With a tremendous sense of relief, Mia learns that the visual and auditory centers in her brain are linked, resulting in a mixing of sensory experiences–and that there are others out there like her.

As Mia’s world opens up with this revelation (she’s not crazy or afflicted with a disease), other challenges arise.  Jenna is hurt that her best friend did not confide in her.  Mia’s mother wonders if there isn’t a quick fix to her daughter’s sensory differences.  The thirteen-year-old wonders about a 9th-grade boy she “meets” through a synesthesia web site.  And Mia’s beloved cat, Mango (named for the color she associates with her pet), has a worrisome health condition.  Any one of them could wreak havoc on her life, but, all together, they cause Mia to wonder if things will ever be “normal.”

Wendy Mass’ marvelous novel is one of many blockbusters that have emerged from her magic pen, among them Every Soul a Star and The Candymakers.  Mia is a strong, likable, believable heroine who will strike a chord with readers.  She is a young lady they won’t soon forget.  221 pages.  Ages 11-15

Published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers in 2005

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