Jewish Novels
for Older Children


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Jewish Historical Fiction for Middle School and YA Readers... Biblical Era | Middle Ages, Renaissance, and the Spanish Inquisition | Immigration & The American Experience | European History | Holocaust (Page 1) (Page 2) (Page 3) (Page 4) (Page 5) (Page 6) | Israel

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A Smile for Sammy
Sammy is the terror of the class. Things havenít been the same since he came. But Avi has his own ideas about Sammy. The seventh-graders at Noam HaTorah donít see it that way at all. Will Avi convince them?

Author Sara Stern, a sensitive newcomer, paints a word-portrait of the suburban Weintraub family and the adventures of its members as only she can. Avi, his charming twin sisters and all the rest of the Weintraub clan will keep you entertained and in stitches.

Description from Publisher

Conquer the Darkness
A joyous story of triumph over adversity.

A phone call brings Renee Greenberg back to a chapter of her life that had brought pain and fear, but ended in love and laughter.

Description from Publisher

This book was a very well written account of a young girl's struggle to cope with her best friend's sudden accident that results in blindness. It expresses perfectly the challenge of accepting the tragic occurance and the changes that follow.

Description from Amazon.com Reader Review

Understanding Buddy

By Marc Kornblatt
Kornblatt ( Eli and the Dimplemeyers) offers readers much to think about in his promising first novel. When Buddy White joins Sam Keeperman's fifth grade class, he is so withdrawn that he doesn't even say hello or pick up his pencil. Only Sam knows what is troubling him over the summer Buddy's mother (who was the Keepermans' housecleaner) was killed in a car accident. For not altogether convincing reasons, Sam keeps the news about Buddy's mother from everyone, including his best friend, Alex. When Sam tries reaching out to Buddy, even defending him from the taunts of their classmates, he opens a rift between himself and Alex, complete with a fistfight that gets both of them kicked off the soccer team. Sam's first-person narration touches on religious differences (Sam is Jewish, Buddy is a Jehovah's Witness) and uses, somewhat clunkily, Sam's Hebrew class discussions as a springboard for his questions about life and G-d (a lesson on G-d testing Abraham with the sacrifice of Isaac leads to "Did G-d let Laura die to test Buddy and his father?... Did God bring Buddy to Mrs. Bobson's class to test me?"). The issues and concerns are commendably large, even if the contrived setup diminishes their impact. Unobtrusive subplots (does Naomi Shrager have a crush on him?) round out the story. On balance, this fast-paced novel demonstrates the author's compassionate understanding of his subject.

Description from Publishers Weekly

Fifth grade Sam wishes he could stop wondering about Laura White's death. After all, he barely knew his family's cleaning woman before she died in a car accident trying to avoid hitting a deer, "-but it's hard not to [wonder] when I knew the person who died and her son sits like a zombie three desks away from me." Laura's son, Buddy, is withdrawn and unapproachable, and after an initial failed attempt, Sam stops trying to talk with him. He does not, however, join his friend Alex in taunting Buddy, quietly at first, then openly. And that leads to trouble. Kornblatt draws his cast of believable characters with a gentle hand, allowing readers to identify and empathize with each of them. Sam struggles to make sense of his world and relationships that are suddenly reshaped by death, and Buddy, too, is struggling desperately with his loss. When he and Sam finally begin to weave a tentative web of friendship, Buddy confides that he is angry at his mother. The two have obvious differences: Sam is Jewish, Buddy a Jehovah's Witness; Buddy is poor and harassed by his classmates for wearing one of Sam's cast-off shirts. However, as they move into their new friendship, their awareness of one another grows. The author skillfully imbeds the central conflict into a familiar childhood world of sports, family challenges, school, and growing self-awareness, creating a thoughtful, believable resolution

Description from School Library Journal

The Primrose Path

By Carol Matas

Sensitive Topic: For mature readers only



When fourteen-year-old Debbie moves to a new town and Hebrew school following the death of her grandmother, she begins to be uncomfortable with the overly familiar behavior of the Rabbi principal.

Everyone says, tell the truth. But for Debbie telling the truth could turn everything she loves--her parents, her new friends, her community--upside down and even against her. Especially when that truth involves a powerful figure in her Jewish community whose attention she once sought out so trustingly--a man so well respected that even to question his motives is unthinkable.

Description from Publisher

The Christmas Revolution

By Barbara Cohen
Fourth-grader Emily is forced to think about her Jewish heritage when the new boy, an Orthodox Jew, refuses to participate in the school Christmas celebrations. Simeon and Emily stage their own "Christmas Revolution," and their stand helps their classmates learn about Hanukkah.

Description from Publisher

Sarah With an H

By Hadley Irwin
An action-packed, tightly woven story. Marti is very comfortable in her small-town life. She loves being on the high school basketball team, helping her mother at the restaurant, and knowing everyone in LaMond. All of that changes when Sarah Irvine and her family move into town. Sarah seems likable; she is smart, pretty, and also a great basketball player. Marti's conflicting feelings about Sarah are further complicated by the fact that many people in town dislike the Irvines because they are Jewish. As Marti gets her first look at prejudice, she tries to make up her own mind. She finds herself pulled in many directions and almost succumbs to peer pressure. Irwin presents a great story that offers realistic, in-depth characters. The book shows females in positive athletic roles. The basketball action adds an element of excitement and moves the plot at a fast pace. The discrimination against Sarah's family is handled smoothly and realistically without being overbearing. The ending will certainly raise some good discussion points and emphasize how easy it is to follow the crowd. Readers will be satisfied with the resolution and will enjoy riding the story through the anger, sympathy, confusion, and excitement that Marti experiences

Description from School Library Journal

The Blessing of the Animals

By Michael Rosen
Jared is looking forward to the Blessing of the Animals on St. Francis's feast day at the church across the street. He plans to go with his friend Ian and take his dog, Shayna, to be blessed. But when he brings the subject up with his mom, she doesn't think it's such a good idea. Why? Well, they're Jewish. Jared doesn't see this as a problem, but he agrees with his mom's suggestion to poll four people on the subject, and she'll do the same. Jared approaches his great-grandfather, his father, a Holocaust survivor, and a rabbi, all of whom give diverse opinions on Jared's prospective attendance. Its ultimately up to Jared to decide, and readers, while perhaps differing in their views on his ultimate decision, will cheer Jared for making up his own mind in a thoughtful and deeply personal way. This story for middle-grade readers is enhanced by hand-designed chapter titles and full-page pictures by the author.

Description from Publisher

The author of Elijah's Angel: A Story for Chanukah and Christmas takes another careful, penetrating look at cultural and religious boundaries. When Jared sees posters announcing the upcoming St. Francis Festival at St. Catherine's, right across the street from his new apartment, he sees no reason why he can't take his dog Shayna to the Blessing of the Animals-sure, he's Jewish, but Shayna isn't. Understandably, his mother takes a dim view of the idea. She is willing, though, to let him make up his own mind, so long as he first listens to the opinions of eight others on the matter. Enter a priest, two rabbis, relatives and acquaintances of several generations, most of whom offer complicated insights into what it means to be Jewish, and the assimilative pressures faced by minority groups, rather than a simple yea or nay. This is clearly a teaching story, but Rosen fleshes out the situations and characters with buoyant good humor. Christian and Jewish readers both will ponder the issues he raises, but will also come to care enough about Jared to make his eventual decision-the Blessing, no. The potluck afterward? Definitely yes.

Description from Kirkus Reviews
Rachel the Clever
Rachel the Clever and Other Jewish Folktales

By Josepha Sherman
A lively and well-rounded collection of folktales, ranging from humorous to hilarious to ghostly highjinks. It is refreshing that Sherman has chosen to present such a diversity of folklore, rather than relying strictly on tales from Eastern Europe. In this slim volume, 46 stories from Spain, Iran, Central Asia, Poland, and Tunisia, among others, portray the variety of Jewish experiences in the Diaspora. Readers and listeners will be intrigued by the similarity of cross-cultural folkloric traditions, and will delight in the familiar old stories of the Wise Men of Chelm. The author's notes add the right historical flavor. A fine choice for storytellers, it is also a wonderful pick for reading aloud.

from School Library Journal

Light for Greytowers

By Eva Vogiel
Fifteen-year old Miriam, a young Russian girl, defies the cruel matron of the English orphanage and inspires the girls to return to a Jewish life in this captivating novel of faith and courage.

Description from Publisher

That's Me, Tzviki Green

By Chaim Walder
When Tzviki's father is sent to New York from Israel with his family for outreach work, Tzviki has a hard time adjusting to a strange new life. But he succeeds and his newfound and hard-won self-confidence serves him well when his family returns home.

Description from Publisher

Our Heroes

By Chaim Walder
More of the beautifully crafted, touching stories for which the author is known. This book will delight children and adults alike, with its stories narrated by children about their challenges, and the tales they are told about great people who have experienced similar situations. An absorbing read!

Description from Publisher

Time Like a River

By Randy Perrin
"Unforgettable" is the word best used to describe Time Like a River by Randy Perrin and his young daughters, Hannah and Tova. This book has several themes. The first illustrates the friendship between 13-year-old Margie, who is Jewish, and her best friend, Isabel, who is Catholic. The second is about Margie's mom, a vet, who has become dangerously ill with an unknown disease. The third is about a school history project the girls are working on which takes them to an historical archive where they find a diary written by a Chinese man 100 years before. The book then takes an eerie turn when Margie travels back in time to visit the Chinese man who recently lost his father to a mysterious malady. Through this experience Margie figures out the disease her mother has and helps the doctors save her life. The characters in this well-written novel have depth and sensitivity. The book also teaches children that history is fascinating. Social Studies teachers can also learn how much more important it is to emphasize how people lived, thought, and felt in the past, rather than make children memorize isolated facts. I recommend this book for everyone 4th grade level and above.

Description from Independent Publisher

Thanks to You!

By Miriam L. Elias
The girls in Penina's tenth grade class perform a skit about showing appreciation in the annual school program, and they give the starring role to a new student from Iran.

Description from Publisher

Perah Ha Shalom (Peace Flower, in Hebrew)

By Ada Aharoni
Peace Flower is a beautiful and inspiring story for the entire family, which can be read from the age of ten to a hundred and ten. It will delight young and old both for its exciting story, and its deep levels of symbolic and metaphorical truths relevant to our own times. It is an imaginative tale of fantastic adventures in space, to find the Peace Flower and bring it back to earth as it does not yet exist in our present.

Lee and Ronni, two brave children, face the terrible nuclear giant Nuki, who tries to stop them from bringing the magical peace flower to our earth.

If they do, they will have the opportunity to put the symbolic nuclear dragon, Nuki, back into its box and end war forever. They travel the universe, past, present and future in a magical vehicle called, Muzi, guided by Petra, the smart and resourceful sister of Peter Pan.

When Lee and Roni, at the suggestion of wise scientist Bayles, go on their dangerous and urgent mission to find the Peace Flower, which can only be found in Esperia, the Land of the Future, they symbolize our hope that the next generation will be able to create a better world beyond war.

Description from Publisher

Anything Can Happen

By Libby Lawenik
Set off on a voyage where imagination reigns, and the sky is the limit! This collection of short stories will captivate, entertain, and give plenty of food for thought. In the Land of "Anything Can Happen," it usually does!

Description from Publisher

Cartons In The Air and Other Stories
Delightful true tales from around the globe and through the centuries retold by Shaindel Weinbach, beautifully illustrated by Yosef Dershowitz.

Description from Publisher

Secret of the Hotel Delarosa:
A Bina Gold Mystery
Bina and Tammy glimpse their red headed classmate from Miami in the Old City. But why is Lisa in Jerusalem? And why is she living in the run-down Hotel DelaRosa with two mysterious women? And who is the stranger in the alley guarding their room? Bina and Tammy will get involved with the Israeli Secret Service and Arab terrorists as they solve this mystery.

Raven's Flight

By Anne Lowe
When 12-year-old Raven Rogers takes a hot air balloon ride, she uncovers a crime and enlists the help of her best friend, Chickie Klein, to solve it. These modern-day Nancy Drews embark on a fast-paced adventure through real-life locations in southeastern Wisconsin. Through it all, the girls learn about the magical world of hot air ballooning and the Jewish concept of tzedakah Ė righteousness.

Description from Publisher

The Spider's Web

By Laura Ellen Williams
The message is heavily overstated in this novel, but the dramatic story will hold middle-graders. Lexi is a contemporary German girl, who joins a neo-Nazi group to find friends and escape her unhappy home. She mouths all the racist slogans and finds herself drawn into the skinheads' escalating violence, which culminates in the beating of a black kid and the burning of a synagogue. What saves Lexi is her encounter with an old woman, Ursula, who was once a member of the Hitler Youth ("I didn't know any better. But now I know") and who is haunted by her youthful betrayal of a Jewish friend. The parallels are contrived as Ursula's flashbacks are woven into the narrative and Lexi unwittingly betrays a friend. The characters are stock, including idealized Jews. However, the account of the innocent, troubled kid drawn to bigotry would be a good start for classroom discussions. Erica Magnus' occasional drawings extend the drama, especially the shocking pictures of Lexi with a swastika tattoo on her bald head.

Description from Booklist

A well-written story about the relationship between a young skinhead and an old lady. Through flashbacks, readers learn that the elderly woman, Ursula, was one of Hitler's children and that she tormented her Jewish peers. As the novel begins, Lexi Jordan, 13, is running away from the police after desecrating a cemetery. She is invited into Ursula's home for shelter when the woman finds her hiding on her porch. The old lady reminds Lexi of her late grandmother, the last loving relative in her life. The girl's father left years ago and her mother is an alcoholic. Lexi, with her shaved head and spider's web swastika tattooed on her scalp, awakens shameful memories of Ursula's hideous past in Hitler's Germany. The confused adolescent is depicted both in her dysfunctional home and with her neo-Nazi "family," a group of mostly older skinheads who provide the sense of belonging that she so desperately needs. In the end, she becomes disillusioned with them and begins a promising relationship with her mother. This novel of a troubled young adult shows how destructive hate can be, and the lengths to which one will go to find love and acceptance

Description from School Library Journal

Time Like a River

By Randy Perrin
"Unforgettable" is the word best used to describe Time Like a River by Randy Perrin and his young daughters, Hannah and Tova. This book has several themes. The first illustrates the friendship between 13-year-old Margie, who is Jewish, and her best friend, Isabel, who is Catholic. The second is about Margie's mom, a vet, who has become dangerously ill with an unknown disease. The third is about a school history project the girls are working on which takes them to an historical archive where they find a diary written by a Chinese man 100 years before. The book then takes an eerie turn when Margie travels back in time to visit the Chinese man who recently lost his father to a mysterious malady. Through this experience Margie figures out the disease her mother has and helps the doctors save her life. The characters in this well-written novel have depth and sensitivity. The book also teaches children that history is fascinating. Social Studies teachers can also learn how much more important it is to emphasize how people lived, thought, and felt in the past, rather than make children memorize isolated facts. I recommend this book for everyone 4th grade level and above.

Description from Independent Publisher

Tales from the Yeshiva World

By Rabbi Nosson Scherman

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