The Blog

May is Jewish American Heritage Month, made to pay tribute to the generations of Jewish Americans who helped form the fabric of American history, culture, and society. The first synagogue in America was established in 1763! Today, there are more than 7 million Jews living in the United States, with large communities in New York City, Los Angeles, and Chicago. So whether you’re looking for picture books that reflect your child’s own culture or introduce them to another, check out these six amazing picture books with Jewish American protagonists!

Jewish American History

THE KNISH WAR ON RIVINGTON STREET BY JOANNE OPPENHEIM (AUTHOR), JON DAVIS (ILLUSTRATOR)

Benny’s family owns a knishery and sells delicious round dumplings. Then the Tisch family opens a store across the street―selling square knishes―and Benny’s papa worries. So he lowers his prices! But Mr. Tisch does too. As each knishery tries to outdo the other, Benny helps his papa realize there’s room on Rivington Street for more than one knishery.

WHEN JESSIE CAME ACROSS THE SEA BY AMY HEST (AUTHOR), P.J. LYNCH (ILLUSTRATOR)

“Hest simply and faithfully holds a mirror to the milestone event for millions of turn-of-the-century immigrants.” — Publishers Weekly (starred review)

When a young girl from a poor eastern European village learns that she must leave her beloved grandmother for a new life—and a new love—in America, they both feel that their hearts will break. The sure and inspired narrative by award-winning author Amy Hest is paired with paintings by P.J. Lynch that glow with warmth and carefully observed detail, creating an unforgettable tribute to the immigrant experience.

Doing Good in Your Community 

MITZVAH PIZZA PAPERBACK BY SARAH LYNN SCHEERGER (AUTHOR), DEBORAH MELMON (ILLUSTRATOR)

Missy loves Saturdays with her dad. Every week they do something special together. Usually, Dad brings the funds and Missy brings the fun, but this week, it’s Missy’s turn to treat with her own allowance―until she and her dad stop for pizza, and Missy discovers a special way to do a mitzvah.

The perfect book to show small ways to make a big difference, Mitzvah Pizza is a must-read on how to spread good will in your community!

THE TREES OF THE DANCING GOATS BY PATRICIA POLACCO (AUTHOR, ILLUSTRATOR)

Trisha loves the eight days of Hanukkah, when her mother stays home from work, her Babushka makes delicious potato latkes, and her Grampa carves wonderful animals out of wood as gifts for Trisha and her brother. In the middle of her family’s preparation for the festival of lights, Trisha visits her closest neighbors, expecting to find them decorating their house for Christmas. Instead they are all bedridden with scarlet fever. Trisha’s family is one of the few who has been spared from the epidemic. It is difficult for them to enjoy their Hanukkah feast when they know that their neighbors won’t be able to celebrate their holiday. Then Grampa has an inspiration: they will cut down trees, decorate them, and secretly deliver them to the neighbors, “But what can we decorate them with?” Babushka asks. Although it is a sacrifice, Trisha realizes that Grampa’s carved animals are the perfect answer. Soon her living room is filled with trees—but that is only the first miracle of many during an incredible holiday season.

Based on a long cherished childhood memory, this story celebrates the miracle of true friendship.

Folk Tale Retellings

MY GRANDFATHER’S COAT BY JIM AYLESWORTH (AUTHOR), BARBARA MCCLINTOCK (ILLUSTRATOR)

A rollicking, rhyming, fun rendition of a favorite folk song about a many-times recycled coat—by the award-winning, bestselling team of Jim Aylesworth and Barbara McClintock.

When my grandfather came to America he made himself a handsome coat! Then he wore it and he wore it and he wore it—until it was all worn out! So what did he do? He snipped and he clipped—and he stitched and he sewed. . . and out of the still-good cloth of his coat—he made himself a smart jacket!How many things can Grandfather make out of that old frayed coat? Jim Aylesworth’s satisfying retelling and Barbara McClintock’s heart-warming pictures celebrate the clever recycling of a beloved coat that lasts four generations—until it becomes this story!

NO ROOM FOR A PUP! BY ELIZABETH SUNEBY (AUTHOR), LAUREL MOLK (AUTHOR, ILLUSTRATOR)

Mia wants a dog more than anything. But according to her mom, there is just NO ROOM in their very small apartment. Then one day, when she and her grandma are visiting a friend who is giving away puppies, Mia falls in love with a small spotted pup who crawls into her lap. She knows she just has to convince her mom to let her keep him! With help from Grandma—and some of her pet-owning friends—can Mia show her mom how much room there really is in their apartment?

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Martina Rethman is an editorial intern with Cardinal Rule Press. She is currently a senior at Carnegie Mellon University.

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