Introducing children to Rosh Hashanah books is a great way to help them along the journey of being menschen (Hebrew/Yiddish for good people). Rosh Hashanah is a very important day for observant Jews, marking the start of the Jewish New Year. It begins the ten days of the High Holy Days, ending with Yom Kippur. Families will spend time thinking about what they can do better, and then they ask loved ones for forgiveness. Though I’m not a huge fan of the concept of sin, it’s still a nice idea to consciously apologize and try to improve.
I’ve put together a list of children’s books about Rosh Hashanah that can be shared before or during the holiday.
An additional note: on Book Riot, we do our best to actively promote diversity in books and publishing. This list features very few authors and illustrators of colour because there aren’t many children’s books by Jewish people of colour.
Rosh Hashanah Board Books
It’s A Mitzvah by Julie Merberg and Beck Feiner
Mitzvahs – acts of good deeds – are especially emphasized during the High Holy Days. This board books showcases a vast quantity of ways of performing mitzvahs: reading and learning, giving donations, playing fairly and treating people with kindness. The final pages bring up tikkun olam, a concept popularized to some through the novel Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist. The term is Hebrew for “world repair” and, originally from rabbinic literature, it’s used to suggest that we do deeds meant to help heal the whole world.
My First Jewish Baby Book by Julie Merberg and Beck Feiner
Let’s start with the cover: The ‘I’ is a pickle, the ‘H’ has been stylized to look like my best friend’s mom, and the double ‘O’s of the word book are bagels with cream cheese schmear and lox. So you had me at the cover, and basically just had to maintain my eagerness through the actual content. This book does, because illustrations are upbeat and adorable while the clever prose rhymes. The inclusion of verklempt actually left me a little verklempt (emotional). It gives information about each Jewish holiday, so it has been on our radar before.
Rosh Hashanah is Coming! By Tracy Newman and Viviana Garofoli
This is a sweet board book with short sentences and cute illustrations. Good for psyching up the littler ones.
Rosh Hashanah Picture Books
Is it Rosh Hashanah Yet? by Chris Barash and Alessandra Psacharopulo
This is a simple rhyming story with cute illustrations. This book showcases a few different traditions: apple picking, eating pomegranates (it’s said that each seed represents a commandment in the Torah), and listening to the shofar. This will be a good way for toddlers to learn about the terms and traditions, and it culminates with the family eating brisket, so the ending is definitely a happy one!
New Year at the Pier by April Halprin Wayland and Stephane Jorish
Tashlich is very important at this time of year, a Jewish atonement tradition that occurs after synagogue service. Miriam and Izzy are two siblings who use the day to apologize to each other and their friends and family. At its core, this one really is a sweet story about kindness.
A Moon for Moe and Mo by Jam Breskin Zalben and Mehrdokht Amini
This one is about two boys, Moses Feldman and Mohammed Hassan, who live at opposite ends of Flatbush Avenue. One day in a shop, the boys meet and discover that they have a lot in common with each other, and a friendship gently blossoms. I love the focus on empathy and kindness, the way that both boys are able to celebrate their respective holidays (Rosh Hashanah and Ramadan) together.
Sammy Spider’s First Rosh Hashanah by Sylvia A. Rouss and Katherine Janus Kahn
This is what I do for my art – read a book about a spider. I do not like spiders. I do not wish to read books about spiders, even if they are constructed out of otherwise cool cut-out illustrations. If you don’t have arachnophobia then this is a cute story about the spiders watching as the Shapiros get ready for the holiday. The book does a good job of emphasizing big, medium, and little, and you get a cheesy parent pun to close the whole thing down. Was it worth my spider trauma? Who can say.
I’m Sorry, Grover: A Rosh Hashanah Tale by Tilda Balsley, Ellen Fischer, and Tom Leigh
Grover and the Cookie Monster go to Israel to visit their friend Brosh, one of the characters from Shalom Sesame. Do people that aren’t Jewish know about that show? If not, the short version is that it was an Israeli version of Sesame Street. The slightly longer version is that they had a dumpster-living grouch named Moishe, and that truly delights me. This book is a pretty charming take on the holiday, focusing on being kind to your friends.
Apple Days by Allison Sarnoff Soffer and Bob McMahon
This one is a sweet story about community. Katy loves Rosh Hashanah, mostly because it means she has a special ritual with her mother: they go apple picking and then make applesauce together. Disappointingly, this year that tradition gets interrupted by the early arrival of her new cousin. When Katy expresses her dismay to her friendly neighbourhood crossing guard, everyone contributes an apple to the cause. Though I wasn’t a massive fan of the aesthetic, the story has a good message .
Talia and the Rude Vegetables by Linda Elovitz Marshall and Francesca Assirelli
This one comes replete with some great word play. Talia misunderstands her grandmother’s request for ‘root’ vegetables as ‘rude’ vegetables and, confused, still manages to find a way to make the holiday sweet. I also loved the use of slightly elevated vocabulary words, those are always fun to explain to kids. It made me think of my own grandparents, whose Easter European accents could be easy to misunderstand at times.
Nonfiction Children’s Books About Rosh Hashanah
Celebrate Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur by Deborah Heiligman
This is a great primer on the High Holy Days, with easy to read information broken up by colourful photographs. I really enjoyed the photo showing an Israeli chef decorating a ridiculously large quantity of gefilte fish (a dish made from different types of fish ground together). There is a lot of great info for the curious reader.
Next time that you see Rosh Hashanah books for kids in a bookstore or library, take a look because it is an interesting holiday with a lot of cultural relevance. If you know anyone celebrating, feel free to wish them L’Shana Tova.