Jewish Heritage Month 2022

May is Jewish Heritage Month! Here are a few books by or about Jewish people, celebrating different holidays or just exploring their heritage.

Meet the Hamantaschen
By Alan Silberberg
36 Pages | Ages 3-5 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593351574 | Viking BFYR
The Purim play is about to start, but the megillah is missing! Without the scroll that recounts the Purim story, how can the show go on? Never fear: three determined hamantaschen – DETECTIVES! Right. Three determined DETECTIVES are on the case. With the help of a mysterious stranger and a few disguises, the detectives uncover the facts so the true story of Purim can be told. In this companion to Meet the Latkes and Meet the Matzah, holiday mistellings have never been so fun.

More Than Enough: A Passover Story
By April Halprin Wayland
Illustrated by Katie Kath
40 Pages | Ages 3-5 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593462546 | Dial BFYR
In this story told in spare, lyrical prose, a Jewish family prepares for their Passover seder, visiting the farmer’s market for walnuts, lilacs, and honey (and adopting a kitten along the way!), then chopping apples for the charoset, and getting dressed up before walking to Nana’s house. The refrain throughout is “Dayenu” – a mind-set of thankfulness, a reminder to be aware of the blessings in each moment. At Nana’s, there’s matzo ball soup, chicken, coconut macaroons, and of course, the hidden afikomen. After opening the door for Elijah and singing the verses of “Chad Gadya,”Nana tucks the children in for a special Passover sleepover. This warm, affectionate story embraces Passover in the spirit of dayenu, and offers a comprehensive glossary – it’s a perfect read for the entire family in anticipation and celebration of the holiday.

Tia Fortuna’s New Home: A Jewish Cuban Journey
By Ruth Behar
Illustrated by Devon Holzwarth
32 Pages | Ages 4-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593172414 | Knopf BFYR
When Estrella’s Tía Fortuna has to say goodbye to her longtime Miami apartment building, The Seaway, to move to an assisted living community, Estrella spends the day with her. Tía explains the significance of her most important possessions from both her Cuban and Jewish culture, as they learn to say goodbye together and explore a new beginning for Tía. A lyrical book about tradition, culture, and togetherness, Tía Fortuna’s New Home explores Tía and Estrella’s Sephardic Jewish and Cuban heritage. Through Tía’s journey, Estrella will learn that as long as you have your family, home is truly where the heart is.

Welcoming Elijah: A Passover Tale with a Tail
By Leslea Newman
Illustrated by Susan Gal
32 Pages | Ages 5-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9781580898829 | Charlesbridge
Inside, a boy and his family sit around the dinner table to embrace the many traditions of their Passover Seder around the dinner table. Outside, a cat wonders, hungry and alone. When it’s time for the symbolic Passover custom of opening the family’s front door for the prophet Elijah, both the boy and the cat are in for a remarkable surprise. . . .

Middle Grade: 

Broken Strings
By Eric Walters and Kathy Kacer
288 Pages | Ages 10-14 | Paperback
ISBN 9780735266261 | Puffin Canada
It’s 2002. In the aftermath of the twin towers, Shirli Berman is intent on moving forward. The best singer in her junior high, she auditions for the lead role in Fiddler on the Roof, but is crushed to learn that she’s been given the part of the old Jewish mother in the musical rather than the coveted part of the sister. But there is an upside: her “husband” is none other than Ben Morgan, the cutest and most popular boy in the school. Deciding to throw herself into the role, she rummages in her grandfather’s attic for some props. There, she discovers an old violin in the corner – strange, since her Zayde has never seemed to like music, never even going to any of her recitals. Showing it to her grandfather unleashes an anger in him she has never seen before, and while she is frightened of what it might mean, Shirli keeps trying to connect with her Zayde and discover the awful reason behind his anger. A long-kept family secret spills out, and Shirli learns the true power of music, both terrible and wonderful.

RBG’s Brave & Brilliant Women: 33 Jewish Women to Inspire Everyone
By Nadine Epstein
Illustrated by Bee Johnson
Introduction by Ruth Bader Ginsberg
224 Pages | Ages 10+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593377185 | Delacorte Press
The fascinating lives detailed in this collection – more than thirty exemplary female role models – were chosen by Ruth Bader Ginsburg, or RBG, as she was lovingly known to her many admirers. Working with her friend, journalist Nadine Epstein, RBG selected these trailblazers, all of whom are women and Jewish, who chose not to settle for the rules and beliefs of their time. They did not accept what the world told them they should be. Like RBG, they dreamed big, worked hard, and forged their own paths to become who they deserved to be. Future generations will benefit from each and every one of the courageous actions and triumphs of the women profiled here. Real Wonder Women, the passion project of Justice Ginsburg in the last year of her life, will inspire readers to think about who they want to become and to make it happen, just like RBG.

Starfish
By Lisa Fipps
256 Pages | Ages 10+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9781984814500 | Nancy Paulsen Books
Ever since Ellie wore a whale swimsuit and made a big splash at her fifth birthday party, she’s been bullied about her weight. To cope, she tries to live by the Fat Girl Rules – like “no making waves,” “avoid eating in public,” and “don’t move so fast that your body jiggles.” And she’s found her safe space – her swimming pool – where she feels weightless in a fat-obsessed world. In the water, she can stretch herself out like a starfish and take up all the room she wants. It’s also where she can get away from her pushy mom, who thinks criticizing Ellie’s weight will motivate her to diet. Fortunately, Ellie has allies in her dad, her therapist, and her new neighbor, Catalina, who loves Ellie for who she is. With this support buoying her, Ellie might finally be able to cast aside the Fat Girl Rules and starfish in real life – by unapologetically being her own fabulous self.

Summer of Stolen Secrets
By Julie Sternberg
288 Pages | Ages 10+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593203644 | Viking BFYR
Catarina has never met her strict Jewish grandmother. But now, with an opportunity to spend three weeks in Baton Rouge and away from her best-friends-turned-bullies, Cat packs her bags and leaves New York City to get to know the woman who has always been a mystery. Down South, she begins working at her grandmother’s luxury department store with her rebellious cousin Lexie. Nothing seems to be going right and nobody talks about the past. But just when Cat is starting to think that this whole trip may have been a huge mistake, she stumbles onto a secret from a time her grandmother refuses to speak of. Suddenly Cat’s summer, and everything she thought she knew, has changed.

Turtle Boy
By M. Evan Wolkenstein
400 Pages | Ages 10+ | Paperback
ISBN 9780593121597 | Yearling
Seventh grade is not going well for Will Levine. Kids at school bully him because of his funny-looking chin. And for his bar mitzvah community service project, he’s forced to go to the hospital to visit RJ, an older boy struggling with an incurable disease. At first, the boys don’t get along, but then RJ shares his bucket list with Will. Among the things he wants to do: ride a roller coaster; go to a school dance; swim in the ocean. To Will, happiness is hanging out in his room, alone, preferably with the turtles he collects. But as RJ’s disease worsens, Will realizes he needs to tackle the bucket list on his new friend’s behalf before it’s too late. It seems like an impossible mission, way outside Will’s comfort zone. But as he completes each task with RJ’s guidance, Will learns that life is too short to live in a shell.

Young Adult:

Color Me In
By Natasha Diaz
384 Pages | Ages 12+ | Paperback
ISBN 9780525578253 | Delacorte BFYR
Growing up in an affluent suburb of New York City, sixteen-year-old Nevaeh Levitz never thought much about her biracial roots. When her Black mom and Jewish dad split up, she relocates to her mom’s family home in Harlem and is forced to confront her identity for the first time. Nevaeh wants to get to know her extended family, but because she inadvertently passes as white, her cousin thinks she’s too privileged, pampered, and selfish to relate to the injustices African Americans face on a daily basis. In the meantime, Nevaeh’s dad decides that she should have a belated bat mitzvah instead of a sweet sixteen, which guarantees social humiliation at her posh private school. But rather than take a stand, Nevaeh does what she’s always done when life gets complicated: she stays silent. Only when Nevaeh stumbles upon a secret from her mom’s past, finds herself falling in love, and sees firsthand the prejudice her family faces does she begin to realize she has her own voice. And choices. Will she continue to let circumstances dictate her path? Or will she decide once for all who and where she is meant to be?

Dancing at the Pity Party
By Tyler Feder
208 Pages | 12+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780525553021 | Dial BFYR
Part poignant cancer memoir and part humorous reflection on a motherless life, this debut graphic novel is extraordinarily comforting and engaging. From before her mother’s first oncology appointment through the stages of her cancer to the funeral, sitting shiva, and afterward, when she must try to make sense of her life as a motherless daughter, Tyler Feder tells her story in this graphic novel that is full of piercing – but also often funny – details. She shares the important post-death firsts, such as celebrating holidays without her mom, the utter despair of cleaning out her mom’s closet, ending old traditions and starting new ones, and the sting of having the “I’ve got to tell Mom about this” instinct and not being able to act on it. This memoir, bracingly candid and sweetly humorous, is for anyone struggling with loss who just wants someone to get it.

It’s a Whole Spiel: Love, Latkes, and Other Jewish Stories
Edited by Katherine Locke and Laura Silverman
Foreword by Mayim Bialik
320 Pages | Ages 12+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780525646167 | Knopf BFYR
A Jewish boy falls in love with a fellow counselor at summer camp. A group of Jewish friends take the trip of a lifetime. A girl meets her new boyfriend’s family over Shabbat dinner. Two best friends put their friendship to the test over the course of a Friday night. A Jewish girl feels pressure to date the only Jewish boy in her grade. Hilarious pranks and disaster ensue at a crush’s Hanukkah party. From stories of confronting their relationships with Judaism to rom-coms with a side of bagels and lox, It’s a Whole Spiel features one story after another that says yes, we are Jewish, but we are also queer, and disabled, and creative, and political, and adventurous, and anything we want to be. You will fall in love with this insightful, funny, and romantic Jewish anthology from a collection of diverse Jewish authors.

The Ghosts of Rose Hill
By R. M. Romero
384 Pages | Ages 14+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9781682633380 | Peachtree Teen
Sent to stay with her aunt in Prague and witness the humble life of an artist, Ilana Lopez – a biracial Jewish girl – finds herself torn between her dream of becoming a violinist and her immigrant parents’ desire for her to pursue a more stable career. When she discovers a forgotten Jewish cemetery behind her aunt’s cottage, she meets the ghost of a kindhearted boy named Benjamin, who died over a century ago. As Ilana restores Benjamin’s grave, he introduces her to the enchanted side of Prague, where ghosts walk the streets and their kisses have warmth. But Benjamin isn’t the only one interested in Ilana. Rudolph Wassermann, a man with no shadow, has become fascinated with her and the music she plays. He offers to share his magic, so Ilana can be with Benjamin and pursue her passion for violin. But after Ilana discovers the truth about Wassermann and how Benjamin became bound to the city, she resolves to save the boy she loves, even if it means losing him – forever.

The New Queer Conscience
By Adam Eli
Illustrated by Ashley Lukashevsky
64 Pages | Ages 12+ | Paperback
ISBN 9780593093689 | Penguin Workshop
Voices4 Founder and LGBTQIA+ activist Adam Eli offers a candid and compassionate introduction to queer responsibility. Eli calls on his Jewish faith to underline how kindness and support within the queer community can lead to a stronger global consciousness. More importantly, he reassures us that we’re not alone. In fact, we never were. Because if you mess with one queer, you mess with us all.

The Way Back
By Gavriel Savit
384 Pages | Ages 12+ | Paperback
ISBN 9781984894656 | Ember
For the Jews of Eastern Europe, demons are everywhere: dancing on the rooftops in the darkness of midnight, congregating in the trees, harrowing the dead, even reaching out to try and steal away the living. But the demons have a land of their own: a Far Country peopled with the souls of the transient dead, governed by demonic dukes, barons, and earls. When the Angel of Death comes strolling through the little shtetl of Tupik one night, two young people will be sent spinning off on a journey through the Far Country. There they will make pacts with ancient demons, declare war on Death himself, and maybe – just maybe – find a way to make it back alive.

This Rebel Heart
By Katherine Locke
448 Pages | Ages 12+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593381243 | Knopf BFYR
In the middle of Budapest, there is a river. Csilla knows the river is magic. During WWII, the river kept her family safe when they needed it most – safe from the Holocaust. But that was before the Communists seized power. Before her parents were murdered by the Soviet police. Before Csilla knew things about her father’s legacy that she wishes she could forget. Now Csilla keeps her head down, planning her escape from this country that has never loved her the way she loves it. But her carefully laid plans fall to pieces when her parents are unexpectedly, publicly exonerated. As the protests in other countries spur talk of a larger revolution in Hungary, Csilla must decide if she believes in the promise and magic of her deeply flawed country enough to risk her life to help save it, or if she should let it burn to the ground. With queer representation, fabulist elements, and a pivotal but little-known historical moment, This Rebel Heart is Katherine Locke’s tour de force.

This Rebel Heart: A Q&A with Katherine Locke

We’re always on the lookout for historical novels with a good twist and Katherine Locke has definitely delivered with This Rebel Heart. We asked Katherine a few questions about their writing process, scroll down for their answers!

Q&A with Katherine Locke

Tell us a bit about This Rebel Heart, what inspired you?

I was inspired by the revolution itself. It was so powerful to read about a bottom-up revolution, one led by the average person, regular citizens. This is the story of students who gathered to right historical wrongs and changed the world in the process. They united people from all factions of life in Hungary: urban and rural, student and factory worker. And even though the revolution was not successful, it was hugely important. I could talk about this revolution for hours and writing this book was one way of paying homage to the revolutionaries who laid the path for so many movements in the Eastern Bloc that came after them.

At what point in the writing process did you decide to introduce a fantasy angle?

I knew from the beginning I wanted a fantasy angle. The river was always magical. There were always whispers from the river to Csilla and from Csilla to the river. But Azriel and the golem appeared in the second or third drafts, and they really completed the book for me.

How much research did you have to do into the Hungarian revolution? How well are you finding it’s known in North America?

It’s not very well known, unfortunately. At some point, we decided that unsuccessful meant unimportant when that’s absolutely not true. So we don’t teach it. But we should teach it. It was an incredible moment in history which was somewhat overshadowed by the Suez Crisis. I did a lot of research into the revolution and there were so many incredible stories that spun out from the revolution that I couldn’t fit into the book. I hope that reading This Rebel Heart kicks off readers’ interest in that moment in history!

Your previous YA duology was also historical fiction, what about that genre intrigues you? Are there other genres you’d like to dip into in the future?

I love diving into parts of history that I think are overlooked, or not taught well – especially in North American education, in particular. I think there’s so much to learn in history that’s not centered on huge historical figures, battles, dates, and capitals. I like delving into the stories of average, ordinary people in these incredible moments and seeing those moments through their eyes. I do think that I’d like to write a secondary world fantasy in the near future! Really test out my world-building chops.

Without spoiling anything, can you tell us about the queer representation in This Rebel Heart?

This Rebel Heart is quite queer. There’s a central, romantic relationship between three characters, and there are past same-sex relationships that are talked about between other characters. Queerness is inherent to the story.

What was your favorite relationship to explore?

I really love Csilla’s relationship with Márton, a mentor-figure, and her aunt Ilona. Those two were particularly special to me and they brought so much to the story.

What are some historical fiction (or historical fantasy, if that’s not too specific) novels that you love?

I’m about halfway through the audiobook of I Must Betray You by Ruta Sepetys, and I absolutely love it! I also really adore The City Beautiful by Aden Polydoros for a queer historical fantasy/horror novel that just blew me away last year.

What’s your number one piece of writing advice (either that you give people or that you’ve received)?

Learn to finish drafts! Writing is hard and sometimes there are sections you just have to slog through, but learning to finish drafts is absolutely essential. It’ll also give you that confidence for the next one. When I hit a hard spot in my drafts, I get to remind myself, “But you’ve done this before and you can do it again.”

What are you working on next?

I’m working on my next YA which is queer, Jewish, historical fantasy again. But this one’s very different than my previous books and I can’t wait to share this with everyone. Hopefully I can share more next year!

Pandemic question: What’s the one thing you just can’t live without these days?

I got a horse during the pandemic, returning to a sport and world that I’d spent all of my teens and early twenties in. It’s been an enormous privilege to have a safe, outdoor-focused sport and space over the last two years. And it’s such a gift to go to the barn and disconnect from my phone and just be present with him. I can’t imagine my life without him, even when he’s racking up vet bills and being naughty.

Thanks for joining us, Katherine! This Rebel Heart is available now, make sure you pick it up from your favorite bookstore. 


This Rebel Heart
By Katherine Locke
448 Pages | Ages 12+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593381243 | Knopf BFYR
In the middle of Budapest, there is a river. Csilla knows the river is magic. During WWII, the river kept her family safe when they needed it most – safe from the Holocaust. But that was before the Communists seized power. Before her parents were murdered by the Soviet police. Before Csilla knew things about her father’s legacy that she wishes she could forget. Now Csilla keeps her head down, planning her escape from this country that has never loved her the way she loves it. But her carefully laid plans fall to pieces when her parents are unexpectedly, publicly exonerated. As the protests in other countries spur talk of a larger revolution in Hungary, Csilla must decide if she believes in the promise and magic of her deeply flawed country enough to risk her life to help save it, or if she should let it burn to the ground. With queer representation, fabulist elements, and a pivotal but little-known historical moment, This Rebel Heart is Katherine Locke’s tour de force.

Also featuring Katherine Locke:

It’s a Whole Spiel: Love, Latkes, and Other Jewish Stories
Edited by Katherine Locke and Laura Silverman
Foreword by Mayim Bialik
320 Pages | Ages 12+ | Hardcover
ISBN 9780525646167 | Knopf BFYR
A Jewish boy falls in love with a fellow counselor at summer camp. A group of Jewish friends take the trip of a lifetime. A girl meets her new boyfriend’s family over Shabbat dinner. Two best friends put their friendship to the test over the course of a Friday night. A Jewish girl feels pressure to date the only Jewish boy in her grade. Hilarious pranks and disaster ensue at a crush’s Hanukkah party. From stories of confronting their relationships with Judaism to rom-coms with a side of bagels and lox, It’s a Whole Spiel features one story after another that says yes, we are Jewish, but we are also queer, and disabled, and creative, and political, and adventurous, and anything we want to be. You will fall in love with this insightful, funny, and romantic Jewish anthology from a collection of diverse Jewish authors.

This is Our Rainbow: 16 Stories of Her, Him, Them, and Us
Edited by Katherine Locke and Nicole Melleby
336 Pages | Ages 8-12 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780593303948 | Knopf BFYR
A boyband fandom becomes a conduit to coming out. A former bully becomes a first-kiss prospect. One nonbinary kid searches for an inclusive athletic community after quitting gymnastics. Another nonbinary kid, who happens to be a pirate, makes a wish that comes true – but not how they thought it would. A tween girl navigates a crush on her friend’s mom. A young witch turns herself into a puppy to win over a new neighbor. A trans girl empowers her online bestie to come out. From wind-breathing dragons to first crushes, This Is Our Rainbow features story after story of joyful, proud LGBTQA+ representation. You will fall in love with this insightful, poignant anthology of queer fantasy, historical, and contemporary stories.

Katherine Locke: website | twitter | instagram