Books for Kids & Teens That Nourish Jewish Identity
When looking for books about Jewish culture, it's easy to find material about persecution and genocide. While learning about the horrific events that Jewish people have endured is essential, it is equally important to learn about and celebrate other aspects of the Jewish experience and culture.
As a young reader, I devoured books about the Holocaust like the classics Number the Stars, The Devil's Arithmetic, and Maus. As an American Jewish reader, these stories resonated with me greatly. Seeing myself represented in a book was certainly validating. However, I wish I had more than just Holocaust stories to nourish my Jewish identity. After all, I was taught about the Holocaust and anti-semitism in school. But, where were the fun books? Where were the books about Jewish kids like me, growing up so far from the horrors of 1940s Europe? As an adult reader and a school outreach librarian, I seek out books with Jewish protagonists that are about things other than trauma. Here are some great examples of books for children and teens that feature Jewish people celebrating holidays, fighting dragons, writing books, falling in love, attending fan conventions, and more.
Queen of the Hanukkah Dosas by Pamela Ehrenberg, pictures by Anjan Sarkar
A boy is worried that his little sister's climbing will spoil the first night of Hanukkah, when his family combines his father's Jewish traditions with his mother's East Indian cooking.
A Poem for Peter by Andrea Davis Pinkney, illustrated by pictures by Lou Fancher and Steve Johnson
A celebration of the extraordinary life of Ezra Jack Keats, creator of The Snowy Day.
Asteroid Goldberg: Passover in Outerspace by Brianna Caplan Sayres, illustrated by Merrill Rainey
When Asteroid and her parents get stuck in outer space for Passover, Asteroid plans a seder for her family that is truly out of this world.
Hereville series by Barry Deutsch
Eleven-year-old Mirka Herschberg dreams of fighting dragons and spends her days honing her skills, even though there are no dragons in her Orthodox Jewish Community. But when she accepts a challenge from a mysterious witch, Mirka just might win her dragon-fighting sword after all.
Not Your All American Girl by Madelyn Rosenberg and Wendy Wan-Long Shang
Sixth graders Lauren and Tara have always done everything together so that it is only natural that they both try out for their middle school musical about an "all-American" girl. Tara gets the lead role, as usual, because in the teacher's mind Lauren, half-Jewish and half-Chinese, does not fit the image of "all-American" girl. Lauren is hurt but resolved to support her friend, but her two grandmothers are furious and they intend to do something about it.
A Place at the Table by Saadia Faruqi
Sixth graders Sara, a Pakistani American, and Elizabeth, a Jewish girl, connect in an afterschool cooking club and bond over food and their mothers' struggles to become United States citizens.
Yes No Maybe So by Becky Albertalli and Aisha Saeed
Jamie Goldberg, who chokes when speaking to strangers, and Maya Rehrman, who is having the worst Ramadan ever, are paired to knock on doors and ask for votes for the local State Senate candidate.
Little and Lion by Brandy Colbert
Suzette returns home to Los Angeles from boarding school and grapples with her bisexual identity when she and her stepbrother Lionel fall in love with the same girl. As Lionel's bipolar disorder begins to spin out of control, it forces Suzette to confront her own demons. Can she save Lionel from himself—and will he trust her enough to do so?
Zoe Rosenthal is Not Lawful Good by Nancy Werlin
A straightlaced overachiever with established career and marital ambitions discovers her boyfriend's distain for her pop culture fandom, before a flirtation at a fantasy convention challenges her to reevaluate her happiness.
Let me know your favorites in the comments!
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Staff picks are chosen by NYPL staff members and are not intended to be comprehensive lists. We'd love to hear your ideas too, so leave a comment and tell us what you’d recommend. And check out our Staff Picks browse tool for more recommendations!