Children of Israel: Our Book List of Jewish Life, History, and Culture

The terrifying attack on Israel on October 7 has brought new awareness to the ancient phenomenon of antisemitism. Though small in number (and reduced by about 1/3 during the Holocaust) Jews have punched far above their weight in almost every field of human endeavor: medicine, science, entertainment, entrepreneurship, sports, literature—you name it. Could this be because God’s mark is on them? And could envy be a cause of the continuing hatred and conspiracy theories? We may never know this side of eternity, but the fact that Jews remain with their religion and culture intact is in itself something of a miracle.

Children of Israel: Our Book List of Jewish Life, History, and Culture

We’ve reviewed several books relating to Jewish history, particularly the Holocaust, and have read a few we never got around to reviewing. Herein begins our list, which will no doubt expand in the future.


Sitting Shiva (Picture Book, ages 4-8). A girl and her father mourn the death of her mother by following the traditional custom of seven-day “shiva,’ where men forego shaving and mourners symbolically tear their clothes as they gather to share memories of their loved one.

All-of-a-Kind Family Hanukkah (Picture Book, ages 4-8). A spinoff from Sidney Taylor’s classic series has little Gertie throwing a tantrum during Hanukkah preparations, but Papa’s patience and the joy of the season cools her anger.

The Christmas Mitzvah (Picture Book, ages 4-10). How a “mitzvah,” or good deed, performed by a Jewish man for his Christian neighbor at Christmastime became a family tradition through generations.

Welcoming Elijah: A Passover Tale with a Tail (Picture Book, ages 4-8). The Passover tradition of setting a place for Elijah gets a surprising and heartwarming twist.

On All Other Nights: A Passover Celebration in 14 Stories (Middle Grades, ages 8-12). 14 authors contribute to this collection of fiction and memoir relating to the rituals of a Seder meal.

Super Jake and the King of Chaos (Middle Grades, ages 8-10). An aspiring magician discovers the real magic in “Super Jake,” his special-needs little brother.

The Many Mysteries of the Finkel Family (Middle Grades, ages 10-12). The Finkels, a close-knit but complicated Reform Jewish family, pose questions for the two middle sisters.

Honey and Me (Middle Grades, ages 10-12).  Honey and Me explores the fun and challenge of middle-grade friendship in the context of the Orthodox Jewish community.

Shira and Esther’s Double-Dream Debut (Middle Grades, ages 10-14). Shira and Esther, who bear a striking resemblance to each other, trade places so each can pursue her dream of studying and performing.

Dancing at the Pity Party (Teen, ages 13-up). Raw, funny, and honest, this graphic memoir is a close look at grief after the loss of a mother.

The Life and Crimes of Hoodie Rosen (Teen, ages 15-18). “Hoodie Rosen” introduces teen readers to the Orthodox Jewish world, its conflicts with the modern American culture, and the reality of antisemitism.


Antisemitism is the underlying threat of any Holocaust book, and many of the other titles we suggest, but these two novels deal with it specifically:

Linked (Middle Grades, ages 10-12). The 7th-graders of a small western town discover that the Holocaust is “linked” to aspects of their own history.

The Life and Crimes of Hoodie Rosen (Teen, ages 15-18). “Hoodie Rosen” introduces teen readers to the Orthodox Jewish world and the reality of antisemitism.


Miriam at the River (Picture Book, ages 4-8). Moses’s sister Miriam demonstrates the courage and vision that will make her Israel’s first prophetess, in this beautifully illustrated Bible story.

The Language of Angels: A Story about the Reinvention of Hebrew (Picture Book, ages 4-8). How 19th-century Jewish scholar Eliezer Ben-Yuhuda updated the ancient language and brought it back into popular use, with the help of his young son and friends.

Dear Mr. Dickens (Picture Book, ages 4-8). A thoughtful young Jewish woman challenges the famed novelist on his fictional portrayal of Jews, and wins a significant victory.

Sholom’s Treasure: How Sholom Aleichen Became a Writer (Picture Book, ages 4-10). How the son of Russian Jews, widely persecuted in the 19th century, grew up to delight the world with his “Tevye stories” (later adapted as Fiddler on the Roof).

The Passover Guest (Picture Book, ages 4-10). In Depression-era Washington D.C. Muriel’s family have barely enough food for their own Seder meal, but a poor stranger they welcome into their home has a surprise in store.

The Miracle Seed (Middle Grade graphic; ages 8-10). How the Judean date tree, extinct for centuries, was recovered and revived by two Israeli scientists.

American Girls: Meet Rebecca (Middle Grades, ages 7-10). This entry in the popular series helps young readers understand the Jewish immigrant experience in the late 19th century.

Letters from Rifka (Middle Grades, ages 7-10). Immigrating from Russia in the early 20th century, a sensitive Jewish girl endures hardship with determination and hope.

The Genius under the Table: Growing up Behind the Iron Curtain (Middle Grades, ages 8-12). Eugene Yelchine’s memoir of childhood in a nonobservant Jewish family during the last days of the USSR.

Hereville by Barry Deutsch

Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword (Middle Grades, ages 8-12). In this fun graphic novel, Mirka is a plucky Orthodox Jewish girl who leaves off fighting monsters and witches to observe Shabbat with her family. There’s a sequel, too.

The Bronze Bow (Middle Grades, ages 10-up). A beautiful story of the Roman occupation of Judea, a young zealot, and a miracle-working itinerant rabbi who may just be the promised Messiah. We never got around to reviewing the book, but it won the Newbery Award way back in 1962.

Sweep: The Story of a Girl and Her Monster (Middle Grades, ages 10-14). 19th-century London is the setting for this story that draws heavily on Jewish “golem” legends.

The Inquisitor’s Tale, or Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog (Middle Grades, ages 10-15). One of the magical children is a young Jew victimized by “Christian” thugs, joining with two Christians on a Crusade-like mission.

Black Bird, Blue Road (Middle Grades, ages 10-15). In medieval Turkey, a young girl will go to any lengths to save her leprous brother. The story draws heavily on Jewish mythology of angels and demons.

The Blackbird Girls (Middle Grades, ages 10-14). The Chernobyl nuclear disaster forces two Ukrainian girls, one Jewish and one not, to learn to accept each other as they travel to safety.

A Ceiling Made of Eggshells (Teen, ages 12-16). Popular author Gail Carson Levine draws on her own Sephardic-Jewish heritage for this story of a wealthy Jewish family exiled from 15th-century Spain.


The Holocaust is the defining feature of modern Jewish history, and there is no shortage of children’s books relating to it. Yet a surprising number of American school-age kids (according to reports) have never heard about it. Either they don’t read, or it isn’t routinely taught. This shouldn’t be. Not only does the Holocaust explain why there is a modern-day Israel, it also serves as a warning about human depravity, from which no one is exempt. Every year produces more novels and nonfiction, and we’ve reviewed several, though the list below is far from exhaustive. Most of them look at the Holocaust sideways, so to speak, from the point of view of children who were able to escape it. This might be the best way to approach the subject for younger kids.

Nicky and Vera (Picture Book, ages 5-10). Caldecott illustrator Peter Sís celebrates the quiet heroism of Nicholas Winton, who saved 669 Czech children from the Holocaust.

Hidden: A Child’s Story of the Holocaust (Graphic Novel, 6-10 years). A child’s grandmother recalls being hidden by her parents during a Nazi raid and rescued by the French Resistance. Watch for a review soon.

*Memories of Survival (Picture Book, ages 8-12). A Jewish woman who lived through World War II in Poland and had to hide in order to survive tells her story through fabric and thread.

Just a Girl (Chapter Book, ages 7-9). Italian author Lia Levi adapts her memoir, Just a Girl, for young children, resulting in a fine early introduction to WWII and the Holocaust.

White Bird (Graphic Novel, ages 10-15). The author of Wonder traces the holocaust history of a Wonder character’s grandmother.

Alias Anna: A True Story of Escaping the Nazis (Middle Grades, 10-up). In free verse, a survivor tells the story of outliving the Holocaust in Ukraine by hiding in plain sight.

Chance: Escape from the Holocaust (Middle Grades, ages 8-10, but best for older readers). Caldecott illustrator Uri Shulevitz recalls his harrowing wartime childhood.

Number the Stars by Lois Lowry (middle Grades, ages 10-12). The Newbery-winning story of the heroic Danish Resistance, in saving almost all the Jews of Denmark. A modern classic.

The Boy in Striped Pajamas (Middle Grades, ages 11-13, but best for older readers). A 9-year-old German boy whose father has been assigned to “Out-With” (his mispronunciation of Auschwitz) befriends a Jewish boy on the other side of the fence. His naivete blunts the hard edges of what’s going on, but it’s easy to read between the lines.

It Rained Warm Bread (Middle Grades, ages 11-13, but might be too much for sensitive readers). In this true narrative told in free verse, an elderly American recalls his experience in two labor camps during the war.

The Book Thief (Teen, ages 15-up). A light-fingered orphan girl with a penchant for stealing books strikes up an acquaintance with the Jewish man her foster father is hiding in their basement. This literary novel explores deep places with an intensely “literary” writing style.

Someday We Will Fly (Teen, ages 15-up). A teenage girl and her family barely escape the Nazi roundup of Jews by fleeing to Shanghai.

The Hiding Place (Teen, ages 15-up). We never reviewed Corrie Ten Boom’s classic memoir of hiding Jews in Amsterdam, before she and her sister were arrested and experienced a concentration camp for themselves. But every Christian should read it!

Anne Frank: Diary of a Young Girl (Teen, ages 15-up). The classic nonfiction Holocaust narrative has become controversial lately. Betsy sorts out newer versions and makes recommendations.

Annexed (Teen, ages 15-up) is the fictionalized story of Peter van Pels, Anne Frank’s fellow inmate, who offers a moving account of the Holocaust for teens, but no real hope.

*What the Night Sings (Teen, ages 15-up). This moving verse novel begins with liberation and flashes back to scenes in Bergen-Belsen, but ends with the camp of death turned into rehab center and a journey to a new homeland.

Impossible Escape: The True Story of Survival and Heroism in Nazi Europe (Teen, ages 15-up). After two years in Auschwitz, Rudy Vrba escaped to become one of the first eyewitnesses to the Holocaust.

Finally, three new books that are on our radar and may well be the subject of later reviews:

Artifice (Teen, ages 12-15). The daughter of an art dealer in Amsterdam raises money to help Jewish children escape by selling forgeries to the Nazis.

The Blood Years (Teen, ages 14-up). Two Jewish sister navigate love and loss under invasions of their home country of Romania, first by the Russians, then the Nazis.

His Name Was Raoul Wallenberg (Teen, ages 12-up). Not a new book, but an accessible biography of the Swedish businessman whose actions saved thousands of Jews from certain death.

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Janie Cheaney

Janie is the VERY senior staff writer for Redeemed Reader, as well as a long-time contributor to WORLD Magazine and an author of nine books for children. The rest of the time she's long-distance smooching on her four grandchildren (not an easy task). She lives with her equally senior husband of almost-fifty years in the Ozarks of Missouri.

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  1. Izayla on December 1, 2023 at 9:30 pm

    Hi, thanks for rounding up these books! It is fun to have this collection available. Might I suggest that you consider adding The Devil’s Arithmetic by Jane Yolen to this list? I recognize that you are busy with writing other reviews, but I really enjoyed reading it and I think it fits here. Thanks again!

    • Janie Cheaney on December 2, 2023 at 3:50 am

      Thank you for the suggestion! I haven’t read The Devil’s Arithmetic but have heard about it, so I’ll check it out. (There’s also Lois Lowry’s Number the Stars that I completely forgot about!)

      • Betsy Farquhar on December 4, 2023 at 12:24 pm

        I’ve read Devil’s Arithmetic, but it’s been a LOOOONNG time. I remember really liking it. And yes–we should have added Number the Stars!

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