Jewish children’s books for grown-ups. And a give-away.

There are some topics that want, or feel I ought, to teach my children about, but I just don’t know how. Maybe I don’t know where to start, or what language to use, or what information is developmentally appropriate to mention. For some parents, that might be the where do babies come from conversation. But for me, well, I worked at Planned Parenthood in college, and insisted on using grown up words for body parts when my girls were still in diapers (after 35 years of never uttering the world vulva even once,) so I’m not quite so stymied by that one. For me, the tough topics are God, and prayer. Subjects I have far less understanding of and comfort with than “the facts of life.”

As I mentioned in a recent post, I’m generally critical of children’s books that emphasize a message or lesson over a story. But sometimes, as a parent, I want need a book to help me cover the thornier topics of life. And while it’s nice if said book also has a great story and beautiful illustrations, sometimes the book can be a near perfect fit even if it doesn’t. After all, not everyone can write a Bagels for Benny.


I recently received two books from EKS Publishing that serve just this purpose – The Bedtime Shma – A Good Night Book and Modeh Ani – A Good Morning Book. Neither of these books tells a story. At all. They are more like poems, or interpretive prayers. They combine very attractive and interesting illustrations with text taken from traditional Jewish morning and evening prayers. They express gratitude, and direct that gratitude towards God. Something I think is important to do, and important to model, but something I don’t do often enough. Especially not aloud, in front of my children.
I plan to introduce both books to my girls, not because I expect them to love them. I will read them aloud in the hopes that the books will be conversation starters. That they will put words into our shared vocabulary that I might not ever utter otherwise. I’m not sure how they will respond to lines like “I rest myself in God’s hand” but I’m genuinely interested to find out. And without books like these, I doubt I would ever ask.
Obviously, reading a book isn’t a substitute for my figuring out what I want to teach them about prayer, but it does buy me some time. The only reason I’m delaying is, well, I’m not sure I’m ready. But I also know I shouldn’t delay too long. I might have something to teach them. More likely, they’ll have something to teach me. But if we don’t talk about it, I’ll never know.


EKS Publishing is offering a free copy of Modeh Ani, a 2011 Sydney Taylor Honor Book, to one lucky reader. Leave a comment below by the end of the day on January 30 for a chance to win. And because I love to learn more about you, please mention how you first found your way to Homeshuling.
My second piece on Jewish books is up on Kveller. This time I’ve written about my own picture book, A Mezuzah on the Door. Please check it out!
Shabbat Shalom!
Comments read comments(26)
post a comment
Sara Rice

posted January 21, 2011 at 12:08 pm

Looks like a lovely inspirational book. Would love to read it to my Kindergarten class.

report abuse


posted January 21, 2011 at 12:11 pm

I don’t care if I get a copy of that book or not, but I did want to mention how much I love Bagels From Benny. Best book ever!

report abuse


posted January 21, 2011 at 12:18 pm

My little ones LOVE the Bedtime Sh’ma! The illustrations are beautiful, the words are simple and accessible, and they love it when we sing the prayers from the abbreviated service at the end.
I found your blog….ummm…. because you emailed me the url I think!

report abuse


posted January 21, 2011 at 1:03 pm

I believe I found your blog through

report abuse

Jennifer W.

posted January 21, 2011 at 1:23 pm

Have been reading The Bedtime Shma at night to my 21 month-old since she was about 6 months of age, before she really was extremely responsive to books or reading. I remember the first time she covered her eyes and peeked out between her fingers at me as I read the prayer, emulating the girl pictured in the story.
I started reading your blog b/c a friend of mine kept mentioning it and reposting your FB links.

report abuse


posted January 21, 2011 at 1:42 pm

I am in love with reading, in love with my 2 children, and in love with reading to my 2 children. My youngest, Max – 18 months, toddles up to me with a book, thrusts it out at me, and then plops down in my lap to hear me read to him. He only speaks 6 words to date, but when he does this (daily, it seems), it speaks volumes to me. It’s as if he’s saying, “I remember hearing you read to Maya when I was in your tummy. I also remember hearing you read to me when I was a newborn. I’m starting to “get” this whole language/reading thing and I want MORE.” *Happy sigh*
BTW… I learned of Homeshuling from seeing my cousin “like” you on FB. And since I just bought “A Mezuzah on the Door” and “Baxter…” yesterday, I’m sure you know that I’d love ot be in the running for Modeh Ani. And now I have to go buy “The Bedtime Shma”.

report abuse


posted January 21, 2011 at 1:50 pm

I found my way to homeshuling through a friend’s suggestion on Facebook.
I, too, have less of a problem with other “teachable moments” (I am another former PP employee!) I do struggle with the introduction of prayer, and although my son says the Shema by rote every night, I think it’s time for him to understand the prayer.
This would be a great help!

report abuse


posted January 21, 2011 at 2:29 pm

I love the Bedtime Shema! We have the CD too. I would love a copy of Modeh Ani! Thanks for the chance to win!

report abuse


posted January 21, 2011 at 2:32 pm

Ooh this looks like a sweet book to share with my two year old son! I don’t remember how I stumbled across your blog. I think I may have heard about it at a Shabbat we spent at Eden Village Camp this summer. Love reading your perspective on all things family and Jewish. Shabbat Shalom!

report abuse


posted January 21, 2011 at 3:08 pm

Yeah, prayer is a tough one for me too because I grew up in secular (sometimes militantly secular) surroundings and it was and largely remains an intensely private thing for me. It’s hard for me not to be self-conscious about it, and I’m afraid my son will interpret that as lack of sincerity. Which makes me more self-conscious.
Great piece over at Kveller! I am trying to remember how I found homeshuling. I am pretty sure it was a link on someone’s blog. And it opened up this whole world of ima bloggers for me.

report abuse


posted January 22, 2011 at 7:20 am

I found my way to your blog by looking up Jewish mother blogs on the Internet. I’m a new Jewish mom (originally from P-ville too) and live in an area where there are not very many Jews. My husband and I feel it’s very important to find ways to bring Jewish topics and holidays into his world as early as possible. A Jewish prayer themed book would be greatly appreciated. BTW, we love the after Christmas sale contest for most creative uses for the finds!

report abuse


posted January 22, 2011 at 8:08 pm

Sound llike great books! I found my way to your blog through a link on another blog or on the carnival, I think. It’s been a wonderful resource!

report abuse

Jennifer in MamaLand

posted January 22, 2011 at 9:43 pm

Haven’t I always been here? Found the blog because I hoped it would be about homeschooling… and stayed because we’re all “homeshuling” to some extent, too! :-}

report abuse

Bible Belt Balabusta

posted January 23, 2011 at 7:23 am

Yay to the sequel to the bedtime Shma book, yay to the giveaway, yay to your article on Kveller, yay that we have Kveller now, yay to your mention of Laurel Snyder and Baxter the Kosher Pig, yay to more attention to your own Mezuzah book. More is more!
I found Home Shuling back when you started, via a search for Jewish Parenting sites that weren’t funded by giant messianic missionary machines. I absolutely love your insights, your candor and suggestions.
Joanna Brichetto

report abuse


posted January 23, 2011 at 12:12 pm

It feels as if you *have* always been here. Thanks for sticking around despite my misleading name.

report abuse


posted January 23, 2011 at 6:41 pm

We have the Bedtime Shma and I truly love it. My daughter (6) does as well. it’s beautiful and poetic and have thoughtful pictures that encourage imagination. I was very pleased when it arrived!

report abuse


posted January 23, 2011 at 9:38 pm

I have really enjoyed reading your blog since I discovered it a couple of months ago. I’m writing today to see if you have any suggestions for me. This coming Sunday (at 10 am), our synagogue (Congregation Beth El of Montgomery County) is hosting a discussion by Judye Groner and Madeline Wikler, founders and editorial directors of Kar-Ben Publishing. They will provide a behind-the-scenes look at the business of creating and publishing Jewish children’s books. If you know any individuals or groups in the Washington, DC area who might be interested in learning more about the world of Jewish children’s book publishing, could you please tell me how I could let them know about the event? Thanks in advance for your help. (Sorry for posting this as a somewhat off-topic comment, but I couldn’t figure out how to contact you directly.)

report abuse


posted January 24, 2011 at 12:50 pm

Good points, since I speak English to my grandchildren and they barely understand what I’m saying, I don’t have much of a chance for deep discussions with them. My husband gets them books.

report abuse


posted January 24, 2011 at 5:21 pm

I’ve been reading your blog for a while via and I’ve found your recommended resources great for a guy from ‘mixed’ Jewish-Christian guy to gain a better understanding of his own Judaism and to pass it on to the kids I teach and to my friends who are parents. Jewish books of any kind, in particular children’s books, are difficult to come by without knowing what you are looking for, especially in the South.
Shalom Aleichem!

report abuse


posted January 24, 2011 at 9:27 pm

I found your website last month when I was looking for jewish books for my daughters. I have an eleven year old (Zoë) and a four year old (Talia). I was so excited today when I read your blog about the giveaway. I would love to receive the book Modeh Ani. About two years ago at Thanksgiving my now four year old Talia sang a song about the Modeh Ani (Every morning when I am so sleepy, I open up my eyes and say Modeh Ani lefanecha, melach chai vekayam…Thank you Hashem for giving me my ma neshema and another day). Although, I grew up jewish I had no recollection of this prayer. I loved it and I realized wow look what I learned from my two year daughter! Now my daughters and I often start off our day with Modeh Ani. I have always taught my children the importance of gratitude and how beautiful to find out it was the morning prayer of the our people.

report abuse

Sharon Marson

posted January 25, 2011 at 10:00 am

This book looks inviting and lovely. i would love to share it with my first grade students.

report abuse


posted January 25, 2011 at 12:52 pm

I’m not sure how I first found your blog- maybe Kosher on a Budget, but maybe not.
In any case, opening up conversations about prayer is a challenging thing in classrooms, and I imagine that it’s unlikely to be much easier with your own kids. But a book is a wonderful tool for getting your foot in the door, whether with little kids or with bigger ones. I have a colleague who reads kids books to adults as a way of opening conversations, and it’s an approach that I’m interested in trying out, along with using a book like this with the originally intended age group…

report abuse


posted January 25, 2011 at 4:01 pm

I have been following your blog for a while and I really enjoy your writing and how easy you make it to feel connected to Judaism and how to make it relevant for our 2 year old. He loves to sing and he loves his Bedtime Shma book. I never learned Mode Ani and I love learning with my son.

report abuse


posted January 27, 2011 at 6:23 am

I found you through kveller, and would love to use this book with the children at the Jewish Montessori school I founded and direct. Each morning, our 3 – 6 year olds meditate with eyes closed for 2 minutes, then burst into Modeh Ani while gazing out our giant windows. We thank God for the beauty we see, note the weather, then sing our weather song. Often my most spiritual moment of the day!

report abuse

Stacy Braverman

posted January 30, 2011 at 9:29 pm

I found your blog through Rabbi Bruce’s facebook page and kept reading it (and I babysat for you when I was in college).
I would like the book because I taught religious school all through grad school and want to go back after 2 years off. Plus, I’m hoping to have kids of my own in the next few years and it would be great to share with them!

report abuse


posted June 30, 2011 at 10:11 pm

Again, I know I am too late for the contest to win free books. but just had to respond to this. I am going to order the book and cd for my granddaughter…she says the hamotzi every night–in hebrew and english–and is soaking up everything we can teach. I love it!
glad to have found your site–but know it was not an accident…all things work together for good. thank you for sharing.

report abuse

Post a Comment

By submitting these comments, I agree to the terms of service, rules of conduct and privacy policy (the "agreements"). I understand and agree that any content I post is licensed to and may be used by in accordance with the agreements.

Previous Posts

Teaching the Four Questions to young children
One of the greatest privileges of being a kindergarten teacher in a Jewish day school is having the opportunity to teach children to recite the four questions. Unlike almost anything else I teach them about Jewish ritual, this is "real work." ...

posted 7:36:03am Apr. 01, 2012 | read full post »

Guess what's Kosher for Passover (this will change your life.)
I'm not exaggerating. The bane of my Passover existence has been pareve baking. I cook a lot more meat during the holiday than I do the rest of the year, which means a lot more pareve desserts. Which has, up until now, usually meant margarine ...

posted 5:02:27pm Mar. 22, 2012 | read full post »

Why I love the New American Haggadah (and it's not just because I got to have a martini with Nathan Englander.)
I'm not a haggadah junkie. I know many Jews whose shelves are overflowing with numerous versions of the Haggadah - from the traditional Maxwell House to the not-so-traditional Santa Cruz - and whose seders are an amalgam of commentaries, poems, ...

posted 9:25:37pm Mar. 14, 2012 | read full post »

Best Hamentashen Ever, even better. And, a Purim opera.
This time of year, I'm always excited when I look at my google analytics and see that people have landed at my blog by searching for "hamentashen recipe". I love the idea of people all over the world making my great-grandmother's fabulous ...

posted 7:13:38pm Mar. 05, 2012 | read full post »

Edible Purim baskets. And, introducing...the cookie fairies!
My very favorite Jewish holiday tradition, bar non, is the mitzvah of mishloach manot - preparing and delivering gifts of homemade goodies to friends and neighbors on Purim day. This is a mitzvah which embodies so much of why Judaism is ...

posted 8:16:28am Feb. 26, 2012 | read full post »


Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.