Tikvah Means Hope by Patricia Polacco

Tikvah Means Hope by Patricia Polacco

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Publishing: Doubleday, New York, 1994.

Description: Mr. Roth, his two neighbors Duane and Justine, and his cat Tikvah, are preparing for the Jewish celebration of Thanksgiving by building a Sukkah. When they go to the market for supplies, a fire breaks out in the area and all of their neighbors must seek shelter in a local gym for a few days. Upon returning, the neighborhood is in poor shape, except for the Sukkah, which is perfectly intact. Mr. Roth proclaims it a miracle, and even more of a miracle when he finds the missing cat, Tikvah, in the hut. He explains that her name means hope in Hebrew.

Programming: This would be great to read when discussing Jewish culture, or even around Thanksgiving to discuss the way that other cultures give thanks. Students might build (or draw) their own Tikvahs and fill them with the things they are thankful for.

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Someone for Mr. Sussman by Patricia Polacco

Someone for Mr. Sussman by Patricia Polacco

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Publishing: Philomel Books (Penguin Young Readers Group), New York, 2008

Description: The narrator’s Bubbie is a matchmaker. She can find perfect matches for plenty of difficult clients, except Mr. Sussman. However, it soon becomes clear that she is trying to woo Mr. Sussman herself, so that when he tells her what she wants, she changes herself to fit what he wants. After several comical failed attempts, she finally tells him he cannot make any more appointments with her. Not too long after, Mr. Sussman comes to the door and sees all of the things about Jerome’s Bubbie that he had been missing. The two wed and Jerome reflects that his Bubbie’s saying is correct: “No pot is so crooked that there isn’t a lid to fit it.”

Programming: There are lots of opportunities here to explain Judaism and Jewish culture. If possible, students could try to cook a kosher meal to see what it’s like to follow the Jewish law. This would also be a very good book to read around Valentine’s Day, because it reflects the moral that there is someone for everyone and that every person deserves affection for who they are, not who they might pretend to be for someone else.

Golem by David Wisniewski

Golem by David Wisniewski

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Publishing: Clarion, New York, 1996

Awards: Caldecott Medal Winner

Description: When the Jews in Prague are in danger and forced into a ghetto, the chief rabbi creates a mythical creature out of clay. His name is Golem, and his sole purpose is to protect the Jews. The rabbi tells Golem that he should pick up their enemies and turn them in unharmed to the authorities. However, when a mob storms the ghetto, Golem becomes destructive. The emperor promises the Jews safety as long as Golem is destroyed, and Golem returns to the earth as the clay he originated from.

Programming: Students might research further into the practices of Judaism or other periods in history where Jews were persecuted, such as the holocaust. They might learn to write their names in Hebrew.