Tuesday, March 29, 2016

"Night Night, Mommy" by Amy Parker

Cute as a button, this full-cover hardcover book is sure to please mom and kids alike.  The otters are simply adorable, and the bunny stuffed animal that follows them is even more cute.  From story time to going to the library to washing up and more,  the otters truly had a packed day.  The mommy otter plays with the child otter to tire them out for bedtime.  At the end, there is prayer and singing time for the duo.  This story highlights to children how they are loved by mothers.  It is good for young ones just learning about this special type of bond.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

"Collage This Journal" by Eleanor Shakespeare

Most journals focus on writing, and that's great.  However, this journal focuses on imagery.  Each page has a specific question or prompt.  Readers are encouraged to either draw or paste in a picture of what they are feeling.  There is a section in the front of the book that gives advice on how to handle family documents.  For example, make copies and paste those into the book--don't cut and paste original family photos.  The whole book is in color and has a nostalgic feel about it.  Readers will document their family, their dreams, what they love, what they need to get rid of, and more.  This is a visual way to express oneself.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

"7 Days of Awesome" by Shawn Byous and Colin Jack

With illustrations reminiscent of Dr. Seuss and childish play of a circus, this book is sure to give kids laughs.  There are serious aspects of what God made and on what day--of course!  However, the manner in which the tale is told is very humorous.  There will be plenty of giggles as the kids fly through space with their wacky tour guide.  From birds to fish to stinky toes, kids will be taught all about creation.  Also, at the end, there is a final note about how God made rest.  That is my favorite part.  The text is short and rhymes in clever patterns.  This book is good for those just learning to read, I would say at five and up.

"Pilgrimage of a Proseletyte" by David Patterson

So my friend invites me to synagogue one day, and there's this big box of FREE books.  I pick this one up and start reading.  Man oh man was I in for a surprise.  Written in soul-piercing prose, this memoir is of a Russian convert to Judaism.  In the month of May 1991, it chronicles his journey from Poland to Israel to Germany and finally back home to America.  He visits the concentration camps, sees the Western Wall, and sees where Anna Frank lived.  The impact of each location is powerful, and readers feel as if they are with David on his voyage across continents and across spiritual dimensions.  A few other characters are weaved into this book as the author highlights those who have touched him the most--from an elderly couple who helps the sick to a hunched over beggar on the streets.  I believe this book was meant for me.  Born in May of 1991, this book helped me discover that I was born on a Shabbat and on Shavuot.  I am also planning trips to Poland and Italy.  If there could be no more coincidences, there is a point in the memoir where the author and friends discuss Saint Teresa.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

"God is Watching Over You" by P.J. Lyons and illustrated by Tim Warnes

How can anyone not like a book about a little lambie learning God's love?  This super cute full-color wooden-paged book has rhymes that illustrate how God is watching over little ones all day long.  From early morning to bedtime, everything is good.  Children (in the form of animals, of course!) are playing, the sun is shining, flowers are blooming, and families are glad.  There is no dull or sad moment in this little story.  The lambie knows that parents care, as well.  This story is great for readers.  Plus, since the lamb is kind of androgynous, this story could be for girls and boys.

"A Book of Life" by Michael Strassfeld

While this reads like a novel, the book is really a reference for all things Jewish.  While things like Shabbat and holidays are covered towards the end of the book, the beginning starts off with the fundamentals.  The aspects of Torah, prayer, and acts of loving kindness are introduced first.  The Talmud and other ancient Jewish texts are heavily quoted.  There are sections on life-cycle events such as birth, death, mourning, marriage, and more.  Conversion is even covered, along with the different branches of Judaism.  No detail is left out, even controversial opinions held by extremely right winged Jews.  What I liked about this book was how it balanced information with bias.  Many perspectives are given, but no one is elevated about the others.  It was also nice how the main theme of doing good that runs throughout the book.

"Hannah's Choice" by Jan Drexler

Set in the Amish country, this book tells the story of not one but several women as they decide who to marry.  The main character must choose between two men--one is a part of her religion, while another is from the Mennonite offshoot.  To complicate matters, one wants to stay in the area while the other wants Hannah to move to another part of the country.  One is stable and secure, while the other is adventurous and dangerous.  One wants Hannah to be a stay-at-home wife, while the other wants her to help save black slaves escaping the slave trade.  Talk about drama, right?  Another character must decide between an Amish man and an American gangster.  Unlike most stories that just focus on love triangles, this book brings in historical context, family history, and character opinion.  It is an interesting read.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

"30 Day Faith Detox" by Laura Harris Smith

While this book is titled as a "faith detox," it really involves more than that.  The bulk of the book is on physical detox from bad processed foods.  As a certified nutritionist counselor, the author has science behind her claims.  Readers will understand how the gut affects the brain and vice versa.  They will also learn what foods are helpful for the immune system and which are not.  There are plenty of recipes in the back of the book, too.  When it comes to social detox, the author gives advice for both men and women, whether they be single, married, separated, widowed, or divorced.  For the faith aspect, Smith encourages readers to stay hopeful in God and never give up even when times are rough.  Since the author is Christian, there is a lot of New Testament quoted along with Old Testament and copious notes about Jesus.  In terms of my opinion of the book, I was a bit confused at first since there are 8 chapters for 30 days.  Also, I disagree with the giving up wheat aspect.  I agree that one should give up processed sugary wheat but find nothing wrong with homemade whole wheat (not "enriched") baked bread.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

"A Worthy Heart" by Susan Anne Mason

Going from Ireland to America is a big trip but not as big as going from a preconceived notion of someone to a true relationship.  In this story, there are love triangles and drama galore.  Maggie left her homeland to find work in America...and leave behind her crazy ex-fiance.  Adam is an ex-con who had bad luck and doesn't think he deserves any good in life.  Rylan is a character who judges people quickly and is slow to give second chances.  Aurora is a girl learning her place in the world and deciding between suitors.  The character list goes on.  What I liked was how different stories were woven together.  This isn't just some fiction book focused on two characters falling in love.  Rather, others join the scene.  There is even historical detail thrown in the mix to authenticate the novel.  While there is romance in the book, it is not graphic.

"The Jewish Holidays" by Michael Straffeld

This book is an encyclopedia of information on all the Jewish holidays.  While it is compiled by one man, there are copious notes in the margins from other commentators.  From sukkot to shavuot to yom kippur and more, readers will understand what traditions are for those holidays.  There is even a section on understanding where the dates come from and how the cycles of the moon play into that.  In terms of pictures, there is a good balance of images to show things look like.  For example, a seder plate and a sukkah are not left to mere words--there are illustrations.  What I enjoyed most about this book is that it explained where traditions come from with respect but left it up to the reader to decide what is important.  So, while someone may decide to opt out of a certain ritual, they will at least know its significance.

"Basic Reading from the Kabbalah" edited by Gershom Scholem

This short book has excerpts from the Zohar or "book of splendor."  It is essentially a compilation of Jewish mysticism.  The book is divided into categories based on books of the Torah (first five books of the Bible).  There are further subdivisions based on the theme or main idea of each text.  Even though the book is quite slender, it is not an easy read.  The ideas in the book are obscure, and syntax does not help.  While this work was edited for ease of reading, it still reads as though it were written thousands of years ago.  Still, readers can glean several bits of wisdom from this book.  Ranging on topics from the grades of one's soul to what happens when people die to what allegories exist in the Bible to what the nature of God is like, this book will keep you occupied.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

"One Spring Lamb" by Anne Vittur Kennedy

Adorable in every sense of the word, this book is a must for children of all ages.  The hard wooden pages give for a durable book that will last the test of time.  The full-color illustrations will mesmerize, as well.  Starting at one and ending at ten, this book teaches little ones how to count.  Throughout, there is a theme of spring and Easter.  The short lines rhyme, and readers get a chance to count the specific number.  For example, when we get to 10, we could 10 bunnies.  There is some religiousness in this book as it is related to Easter.  There is even a line about Jesus at the end.  However, parents can choose their discretion.  When kids ask about the religious aspect at the end, that can be a moment to teach about diversity.  Plus, the lamb is just so cute!  :)