Suggested Reading — Jewish Themes or Characters
Prepared for the Fauquier Jewish Congregation, by a dedicated member of the Fauquier Jewish Congregation Board. Listed here are fiction and non-fiction books for adults, teens and children. The annotations are based on those in library selection tools. Most of the book sources are available at the Fauquier Library along with many booklists on various reading interests. There are also websites providing Jewish bibliography. A selection of the books and websites is listed on the last page of this list.
The list is not meant to be exhaustive, and omits many excellent titles. Each included title has been recommended by some review source. The user may find it valuable to pursue his or her interests through exploring the sources on the last page. Every selection for children or teens, has either received an award for its quality, has been read by me in my role as a children’s librarian, or both. It should be noted that there will be crossover in ability and/or interest, among the several categories for the young.
Crombie, Deborah. Where Memories Lie
One of a mystery series, this is the only one with a Jewish theme. Deals with the repercussions of events which took place during the Holocaust era. Erika Rosenthal escaped to London, where she has lived with secrets until a long-lost piece of jewelry appears in an auction. Chapters are headed with quotes from books about Jews in England.
Diamant, Anita. The Red Tent
Recreates the life of Dinah, daughter of Leah and Jacob. Depicts the life of women in Dinah’s time.
Fast, Howard. The Outsider
Young David returns from World War II, marries and becomes a rabbi in a town with only 14 Jews. World events are reflected in his story
Halter, Marek. Book of Abraham
Fictional tracing of the author’s lineage from an Abraham of Roman times, to his own grandfather’s death in the Warsaw ghetto.
Heller, Joseph. Good as Gold
Dr. Gold, Jewish professor of English Literature, becomes a high Washington official, and meets the Protestant daughter of an anti- Semitic career diplomat.
Kaminsky, Stuart. Lieberman’s choice
Lieberman, an aging Jewish cop in Chcago, can cope on the street but not always in his own domestic life.
Kellerman, Faye. Day of Atonement
This with others in the series, follows Rina Lazarus and Peter Decker in courtship, marriage and parenthood, depicting her Orthodoxy and his new-found Judaism, set against compelling mystery plots.
Kemelman, Harry. Friday the Rabbi Slept Late
This is the first of a series in which mild-mannered Rabbi Small is caught up in mysterious events in his New England town and abroad.
Lipman, Eleanor. The Inn at Lake Devine
Natalie Marx is 13 in 1962. The Inn is suggesting Jewish guests would be happier elsewhere. Natalie takes action, wangles an invitation from a friend. This has repercussions years later.
Malamud, Bernard. The Fixer
A young boy in Czarist Russia is accused of killing a Christian boy. Despite the suffering he endures, he maintains his innocence throughout. Based on a true incident.
Michener, James. The Source
Uses archaeological artifacts found in Israel to tell the long story of that land and its people. Where facts are scarce, the author fills in with his interpretations.
Ozick, Cynthia. Heir to the Glimmering World
The Mitwissers, German Jews, arrive in the US in 1933. They hire a young orphan as help. She is the narrator of this portrayal of a ramshackle household.
Plain, Belva. Crescent City
In the South during the Civil War, Miriam Raphael and her older brother David are living in New Orleans. David is committed to freeing slaves; Miriam is enduring a difficult marriage.
Potok, Chaim. The Chosen
Danny and Reuven, two Brooklyn boys, both Orthodox but one Hasidic, meet and become friends. Their saga continues in The Promise.
Powers, Richard. Time of our Singing
Follows the mixed-race family of German-Jewish David Strom and black Delia Daley, from 1939 into the 1990’s.
Ragen, Naomi. Jephte’s Daughter
Story of a beautiful young Orthodox woman torn between a promise made by, and to, her father, and the love for a man outside her world...Other titiles by this author.
Rosten, Leo (Leonard Ross) The Education of H*Y*M*A*N K*A*P*L*A*N
Mr. K*A*P*L*A*N (this is how he signs his work, and in colors as well), is a student at night school, in order to learn English. He admits to “making som mistakes, netcheral”. His zany take on the language is delightful to read about, though very frustrating for poor Mr. Parkhill, the teacher.
Rosten, Leo. The Joys of Yiddish
A dictionary, a history, a storytelling--and just plain fun. Still in print 40 years after its first appearance.
Roth, Henry. Call it Sleep
The reader is taken inside the mind of a young boy grappling with adulthood intellectually, emotionally and psychologically.
Singer, Isaac Bashevis. Collected Stories
This collection includes Gimpel the Fool, Spinoza of Market Street and many other examples of the cultural and literary richness for which this master of the short story is known.
Aber, Ita. The Art of Judaic Needlework
Ita Aber is a very unusual artist. Her work is in almost every major Jewish museum throughout the world. She is a master of the fabric arts, which is, by its very nature, an interdisciplinary field.
Bank, Richard, and Julie Gutin The Everything Jewish History and Heritage Book
A quick and easy reference source to answer children’s, friends’ or our own, questions such as,Why no leather shoes on Yom Kippur? Does one have to dwell in a sukkah if there are killer bees around? A timeline of Jewish history is included.
Cahill, Thomas The Gifts of the Jews: How a Tribe of Desert Nomads Changed the Way Everyone Thinks and Feels
Traces Western cultural heritage back to ancient Israel. Readable style.
Chronicles: News of the Past
Covers the period from Abraham’s times to the First Zionist Congress. Written as though contemporary newspaper articles..Received the Jerusalem Seal of Quality.
Dayan, Yael. My Father, His Daughter
A biography of Moshe Dayan, in which the reader may learn that heroes are not always that to their families. Though Yael was his favorite, neither she nor her two brothers were whole-heartedly fond or respectful of their father.
Entine, Jon. Abraham’s Children
The history of Jews is viewed in the light of recent DNA technology. DNA research clarifies understanding of the Diaspora. Several appendices and thorough notes expand the narrative.
Ehrlich, Elizabeth. Miriam’s Kitchen
The author had not found Judaism particularly relevant to her life, until she began learning to cook, from her mother-in-law, a Holocaust survivor. She learns much more, and comes to value her heritage. Includes recipes.
Hallie, Philip. Lest Innocent Blood Be Shed
The story of a small French village, in which the villagers and clergy saved thousands of Jews during World War II, under the noses of a Nazi SS division. A film, Weapons of the Spirit, also tells this moving tale.
Jacobs, A.J. The Year of Living Biblically
The author chronicles his efforts to follow every Biblical precept literally. The reader is impressed by his nerve in living thus in the modern age,--and much amused by his way of describing it.
Lieberman, Leo, and A. Beringause,ed. Classics of Jewish Literature
A collection including poetry, drama, folklore, fiction and non-fiction, beginning with excerpts from the Bible.
Nathan, Joan. Jewish Cooking in America
More than a cookbook, this provides anecdotes, quotes and illustrations about Jewish food and life. The author has also written The Jewish Holiday Kitchen.
Oppenheimer, Marc. Thirteen and a Day
Examines the phenomenon of the American Bar/Bat Mitzvah.
Pearl, Judea and Ruth Pearl. I am Jewish: Personal Reflections Inspired by the Last Words of Daniel Pearl
Subtitle describes this collection of quotes from a wide variety of persons.
Rockland, Mae. The Work of Our Hands
Jewish needlecraft, history and how-to. Some designs appropriate for children. A later edition is The New Work of Our Hands, under the name of Mae Rockland Tupa.
Sax, David. Save the Deli
In surveying the history and geography of the deli, from New York through the U.S., the author finds Jewish community and identity.
Engle, Margarita. Tropical Secrets: Holocaust Refugees in Cuba
This narrative is told in the voices of several refugees and of some Cubans, and makes the history of the tensions of this era accessible. Received the 2010 Sydney Taylor Award, Teen Readers category.
Lasky, Kathryn. The Night Journey
Rachel hears stories from Nana Sashie about Nana’s life in old Russia, and about how the 9-year-old Sashie devised a plan for her family’s escape from pogrom. Many awards.
Levine, Anna. Freefall
Aggie Jacobs, an 18-year-old Israeli girl, tries out for an elite female combat unit in the Israeli army. Realities of Israeli military life are seen through the eyes of this young woman.
Lowry, Lois. Number the Stars
Newbery Award winner. During the Nazi occupation of Denmark, 10-year-old Annemarie must be brave as she shelters her Jewish friend.
Millman, M.C. Locked in Time
In an old Jewish community in rural Pennsylvania, the Rav sells the chametz to Mr. Olsen. When the time comes to buy it back, Mr. Olsen is not to be found. The Rav and Rebbetzin try to solve this disappearance, and in so doing, uncover a mystery 150 years old.
Reiss, Johanna. The Upstairs Room
A Dutch Jewish girl describes 2 1/2 years in hiding in the house of a farmer during World War II. Story continues in Journey Back.
Siegel, Deborah Spector. The Cross by Day, the Mezuzzah by Night
Isabel, living in Seville in 1492, discovers she is a Marrano, a secret Jew, when an edict banishes all Jews. She is determined to preserve her family and culture.
Spinelli, Jerry. Milkweed
In 1939 Warsaw, a boy is living on the streets. He does not know his own background, and joins a group of orphaned Jewish boys. He becomes involved in smuggling food into the ghetto; he soon begins to perceive what the future holds for its residents.
Zenatti, Valerie. A Bottle in the Gaza Sea
The story of an Israeli girl and a Palestinian boy, keeping in touch by email and Instant Messaging during the 2003 Intifada.
Zusak, Markus. The Book Thief
For mature teens. A sad story of children trying to live a normal life in terrible times. The setting is World War II Germany; experiences of the author’s grandmother may have inspired some of this troubling tale.
Cohen, Barbara. The Carp in the Bathtub
Leah asks, “Would you like to eat gefilte fish, if the fish was a friend of yours?”
Hirsh, Marilyn. Potato Pancakes All Around
Retelling of a traditional Hanukkah tale about the “right” recipe for latkes.
Lamstein, Sarah. Letter in the Wind
Based on a folktale. Drought in the village means no oil for Hanukkah lamps. Hayim writes a letter to the Almighty, requesting some oil for the village celebration.
Oberman, Sheldon. The Always Prayer Shawl
Adam and his family leave their shtetl in Russia to immigrate to America. Before they go,Adam’s grandfather gives Adam the prayer shawl he received from his own grandfather--who in turn had received it from HIS grandfather...
Polacco, Patricia. The Keeping Quilt
A homemade quilt ties together the lives of four generations of an immigrant Jewish family, becoming a symbol of love and faith.Rappaport, Doreen. The Secret Seder
During the Nazi occupation of France, a boy and his father attend a Seder hidden in the mountains.
Spier, Peter. Noah’s Ark
Illustrations enhance and add detail to the Biblical story.
Taback, Sims. Joseph Had a Little Overcoat
Story from a Yiddish folk song. Illustrations hold clues to the Jewish nature of the tale; music included. Caldecott Medal winner.
Ungar, Richard. Rachel’s Gift
Selma makes a special soup to attract Elijah to her home; was that poor herring vendor really Elijah, and has he left a special treasure?
Wayland, April. New Year at the Pier: a Rosh Hashanah Story
Izzy learns about Tashlich and compares it to cleaning out his toy closet. Received the 2010 Sydney Taylor Award, Younger Readers category.
Baskin, Nora. The Truth about My Bat Mitzvah
After the death of her grandmother, non-religious Caroline is moved to learn more about her mother’s Jewish ancestry.
Friedman, Robin. The Importance of Wings
Eighth-grader Roxanne is experiencing the difficulties of being picked last for teams, not having Ma and Pa Ingalls as parents, and being unable to style her hair “like everyone else’s”, in wings. The Israeli girl who moves in next door helps with the hair style, and incidentally with other issues too. Received the 2010 Sydney Taylor Award, Older Readers category.
Hesse, Karen. Letters from Rifka
Based on the life of the author’s great-aunt. Rifka’s letters chronicle her family’s flight from Russia and her own stay in Belgium after her family went on to America.
Kushner, Ellen. The Golden Dreydl
Sara receives a golden dreydl at her aunt’s party, and is transported into a magic world of fools, sorcerers and sages.
Schwabach, Karen. Pickpocket’s Tale
Molly, a 10-year-old orphan in 18th-century London, Making her living as a pickpocket, she is arrested and sent to America to become an indentured servant. She is assigned to a Jewish family, and must learn their ways and traditions.
Shulevitz, Uri. Travels of Benjamin of Tudela
A fictionalized account of 12th-century Benjamin’s travels in Italy, Greece, Palestine, Persia, China, Egypt and Sicily.
Singer, Isaac Bashevis. The Fools of Chelm and Their History
A humorous account of the events in the town of Chelm, “like every place else, only worse”. Changes to the town never seem to improve matters.
Taylor, Sydney. All-of-a-Kind Family
Story of five sisters and their parents; the year is 1912, the place the lower East Side. Rich in details of daily life, the problems and the joys, and the relationships of the girls, who are between four and twelve in age.
In book form
Thomas, Rebecca L. A to Zoo: Subject Access to Children’s Picture Books
Syme, Rabbi Daniel, and Cindy Frenkel Kanter. One Hundred Essential Books for Jewish Readers
Canadian Jewish Book Award, Koffler Centre of the Arts
Koret Jewish Book Award, Koret Foundation
National Jewish Book Awards, National Jewish Book Council
Sidney Taylor Book Award, Assoc. of Jewish Libraries
Notable Children’s Books of Jewish Content, Assoc. of Jewish Libraries
Notable Books for Older Readers, Assoc. of Jewish Libraries
New Jewish Valuesfinder, Assoc. of Jewish Libraries