When my older children were small, we spent hours playing with Fisher Price sets. I used to imagine that I would one day partner with that company to create a Shul set, complete with Tatty and boy figures, Torahs, and a backyard sukkah with a crank-up roof.
So when I saw the Binyan Blocks ad with the shul AND the sukkah, I knew this was a company after my own heart. Those boys are grown up now, but their younger brothers were very willing to indulge my fantasy and become the proud owners of a few sets of Binyan Blocks.
Even though it was a school night, actually a whole week of school nights, everyone managed to make time for Binyan Blocks. Homework? Two minutes. Put away my briefcase, coat and shoes? Done. Can we build now?
I always like to get my boys a ‘real’ sefer torah for Simchas Torah the year that they learn kriah. It’s theirs for that year, and possibly the next, and then I pass it to the next child.
This year, it was time to replace our previous Torah, which was already torn beyond repair. While browsing the store’s selection, I found this unique, adorable, and perfectly age-appropriate Torah. The Aleph-Bais Sefer Torah by Keter Judaica has the Aleph Bais printed on its parchment, repeated with each of the nekudos, like a mini kriah practice sefer, just right for boys who are still learning to read. In addition, to make it even better, it has the parshiyos of V’zos Habrachah and Bereishis, so that little boys can still ‘follow along’ during the leining, and no one can tell them they don’t have the actual text!
Here’s a book that’s high in both tochen (meaningful content) and adventure! Full of action, with a touch of fantasy that’s not far from the truth, Ari’s Extremely Important Mission is another great title for Aseres Yemei Teshuvah (and all year round). With an unfortunate decree pending against his town, only Ari can help generate enough mitzvos to reverse the edict and save his family and friends. Along the way, he learns why some mitzvos count more than others and hears some incredible stories, as he puts his boundless energy to work at fulfilling his daunting task.
Full of the light humor that tickles boys’ funny bones, as well as introspective moments that will heighten a reader’s sensitivity, Ari’s Extremely Important Mission received high marks from my two junior reviewers. Y., age 9, said, “You can already tell your friends that it’s EXCELLENT!”, as soon as he was deep into Chapter 1. M., age 9, after spending about three hours in one position on the couch reading this book, shared his approval and then added, “If this author writes any other books, I wouldn’t want to miss them.” This from a boy who would usually rather play ball!
The characters in this book are so real, and so inspiring; they reflect the author’s deeply-rooted Jewish hashkafos, and make the book a must-read.
[Ari's Extremely Important Mission, by Levi Goldstein, Torah Temimah Publications]
If you’re going to be reading stories to your children on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, here’s a title that’s perfect for sharing the essence of the day with the littlest members of the family: Let’s Stay Pure, by Bracha Goetz, illustrated by Sara Fogel.
This beautiful, brilliant book uses positive word-imagery and stunning illustrations that help kids get it: their neshamos are precious, and are worth protecting. Using simple language, it’s a perfect introduction to the concepts of kedushah and shemiras einayim.
Putting this book together was likely a singular challenge, but Bracha Goetz and Sara Fogel did an incredible job, and the book is entirely friendly and upbeat while imparting this impactful message.
[Let's Stay Pure, by Bracha Goetz / Sara Fogel, Torah Temimah Publications]
A near-forgotten tragedy of Jewish history is brought alive in this novel, a long-time classic that has recently been reprinted. When Yosef, Chanan and Luis find themselves among 2000 young Jewish children exiled to the island of Sao Tome to be baptized by the Church and estranged from their heritage, can they see beyond their differences and give the children a fighting chance? Boys will be captivated by the adventure and courage that fills the pages, while subtly absorbing lessons in human relationships.
This is a book that can be read, re-read and then read yet one more time. I should know! I read it first as a child, again as a teenager, and once again now…and I look forward to encouraging any of my boys who haven’t read it yet to do so as soon as they return from camp! No bribes will be necessary for this book!
Here’s your Jewish Encyclopedia Brown. These mini mysteries might leave you stumped, but Gemarakup solves them using lessons he learned in yeshiva. Boys appreciate the genius, as most of them have learned the same stories in their own class.
“It’s very good! He figures it out from stories he learned in Gemara,” says our Junior reviewer. “Like the one where his uncle owns a jewelry store…and there’s a holdup, and…” okay, let your little gemara kups read it themselves.
There are four volumes in the Gemarakup series, available at http://www.artscroll.com, and at 5.99 each, they are extremely reasonable for Jewish books!
After A. Romi Cohn spoke at my son’s Yeshiva, my boys asked to buy his book, The Youngest Partisan; their eager expressions made it clear that they intended to read it.
Not only did my older boys read it cover to cover, but even my eleven- and thirteen-year-old boys, who rarely attempt full-length, adult books, were riveted, and read the entire book through until the end.
What they said, “I kept waiting to get up to the part where he becomes a partisan, but the whole book is very interesting.”
And, “He keeps having to run from place to place, and he hides who he is in order to help other Jews.”
In short, A. Romi Cohn’s tremendous courage as a teenager, when he was just a few years older than they are, is fascinating to today’s boys.
[The Youngest Partisan, A. Romi Cohn, Mesorah Publications]
Give your boys a dose of high adventure with the Adventures of a Lifetime series. These books combine intrigue, memorable characters and the charm of Eretz Yisroel, with a touch of history for good measure. The actions starts up early, and it keeps taking exciting twists and turns throughout the plot, keeping boys hooked.
So far we’ve read Destination Unknown and The Churva Plot, and we look forward to reading the latest adventure, Strangers in Yerushalayim.
[Adventures of a Lifetime Series, Zev Spektor, Judaica Press]
Have boys age 9 – 15? Mission Control to Mars has our vote!
“It’s hard to find books like this,” says my son, who’s currently serving as my junior reviewer. “It has everything in one: adventure, a bit of mystery, and also regular stuff like getting along with friends.”
I couldn’t agree more. That was exactly my own impression of this creative, fun book. The setting is original, but the characters are boys we all recognize in our own communities, struggling to get along and find their place even as they deal with crisis and, in this case, inter-planetary emergencies!
Stay tuned for impressions of our other reviewers…
[Mission Control to Mars, by C. B. Gavant, Menucha Publishers]