4 new children’s books to brighten up the Jewish New Year


BOSTON (JTA) – Sparkling stars and the light of the full harvest moon comfort a young boy and his older sister as they fall asleep in their family sukkah.

That’s a scene in “Night Lights,” an endearing new illustrated children’s book by Barbara Diamond Goldin, one of the country’s most highly acclaimed Jewish children’s book authors.

It’s one of four new engaging books for kids to usher in the Jewish New Year at a time when holiday traditions are being upended due to the coronavirus pandemic. Having to deal with quarantine and perhaps school at home, families can take pleasure turning the pages of these crisp new reads.

“Night Lights” was originally published 25 years ago. The characters of the mother and sister are featured more prominently in the new shorter, refreshed text, Diamond Goldin told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency in a phone conversation. Amberin Huq’s brightly colored illustrations are new, too.

This year’s crop of newcomers also features the latest in the popular Sammy Spider series that has delighted kids for years.

Earlier this year, the Rosh Hashanah middle grade novel “Rachel’s Roses,” by Ferida Wolff and illustrated by Margeaux Lucas, was named a notable middle grade novel in this year’s Sydney Taylor Book Award for Jewish children’s books. The heartwarming immigrant story, set in the early 20th century, is perfect for ages 7 to 10.

Rosh Hashanah begins on the night of Sept. 18. Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, starts on the evening of Sept. 27. 

Up next is Sukkot, the seven-day fall harvest festival, when Jews build small huts at their homes to recall the ancient Israelites who wandered through the desert for 40 years after the exodus from Egypt. The fall holidays wrap up with the celebration of Simchat Torah, when the cycle of reading the Torah begins anew.

A holiday with ancient roots, Sukkot resonates with many issues of the day, Diamond Goldin observed, from its environmental and nature themes to a reminder of the plight of those who live in temporary shelters today, including refugees, a point she makes in her author’s note.

books, children, High Holy Days