"People of the Books" Blog

AJL Recommends Passover Books for Children

March 2021 -- The Association of Jewish Libraries is proud to recommend five recent Passover picture books for children. These titles uphold the highest standards of authentic Jewish representation and holiday spirit in both writing and illustration. AJL recommends them for use by families, in schools, and in libraries. 

Click on the titles to purchase recommended books from Bookshop.org using AJL's affiliate links. Your purchase will benefit the Association of Jewish Libraries and independent bookstores. For more information about the Sydney Taylor Book Award, click HERE. For more information about AJL's Holiday Highlights, click HERE


Welcoming Elijah: a Passover Tale with a Tail by Lesléa Newman, illustrated by Susan Gal, published by Charlesbridge, is the 2021 winner of the Sydney Taylor Book Award in the picture book category. This warmly illustrated, poetic book parallels the experiences of a young boy at a Passover seder and a small white kitten outdoors. When the boy opens the door to welcome the prophet Elijah, he finds a furry friend instead. Simple text, diverse characters, and a timeless feel make this a story to be treasured.

Miriam at the River by Jane Yolen, illustrated by Khoa Le, published by Kar-Ben Publishing, a division of Lerner Publishing Group, is a 2021 Sydney Taylor Honor Book in the picture book category. In this biblical retelling, the poetic tale of young Miriam placing baby Moses in the river is strikingly and vividly illustrated in palettes of blues, oranges, and purples.

The Four Questions by Lynne Sharon Schwartz, illustrated by Ori Sherman, published by Levine Querido, is on AJL's inaugural Holiday Highlights list for Spring 2021. Rich illustrations depict anthropomorphized animals participating in elements of the Passover seder in this second edition of a 1989 publication, updated with an endnote on the art. Ceremonial but accessible language outlines the story of the Exodus and introduces the traditional four questions, included in Hebrew upside down on the page, allowing the book to be read from either direction and encouraging a shared experience perfect for intergenerational read-alouds or a seder night itself. 

Meet the Matzah written and illustrated by Alan Silberberg, published by Viking, is on AJL's inaugural Holiday Highlights list for Spring 2021. In a classroom populated by anthropomorphic bread products, a disruptive classmate hijacks matzah Alfie Koman's retelling of the Exodus story for Passover. Alfie must find his voice and rescue his favorite holiday from bread Loaf's goofy revisions. Silberberg's delightful, cartoonish illustrations match the exuberant tone of this hilarious read-aloud, suitable for Passover celebrants and holiday newcomers alike.

The Passover Guest by Susan Kusel, illustrated by Sean Rubin, published by Neal Porter Books at Holiday House, is on AJL's inaugural Holiday Highlights list for Spring 2021. Readers needn't be familiar with the original I.L. Peretz story, "The Magician", to be wowed by this fresh retelling, set in depression-era Washington DC. Illustrator Sean Rubin's incredibly detailed depictions of the Capital city in springtime perfectly complement Kusel's tale of poor Muriel, whose bare table magically overflows with a Passover feast after her encounter with a juggler who may… or may not… be the prophet Elijah.


AJL Virtual Events in March, 2021

Each month, AJL hosts a number of virtual events. All are free and require pre-registration. Some are open to the general public; others are for members only. To enjoy all of AJL's virtual programming, become a member at https://jewishlibraries.org/join_AJL.

SSCPL ROUNDTABLE: Serving Students
Thursday, March 4, 2021 at 9:30am PT / 12:30pm ET / 7:30pm Israel Time
This event is sponsored by AJL's SSCPL Division, All AJL members are welcome.
Members only. Members, please check your email for the registration link. 

RAS & SSCPL ROUNDTABLE: Preparing High Schoolers for College
Wednesday, March 10, 2021 at 4pm PT / 7pm ET
This event is jointly sponsored by AJL's RAS and SSCPL Divisions All AJL members are welcome. 
Members only. Members, please check your email for the registration link. 

Sunday, March 14, 2021 at 9am PT / 12pm ET / 6pm Israel Time
This event is sponsored by AJL's RAS Division. All AJL members and non-members are welcome; open to the public.
Register at https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZwvc-ygpz8sGNa3Df8aszLp6WhBPWbthr55

AJL will be hosting a Haggadah Hashtag Party on Twitter!  Beginning on Sunday, March 14, 2021 (the first day of the Jewish month of Nissan, in which Passover occurs), post a picture of an unusual or unique haggadah from your library, and/or a link to information about it, with the hashtag #libraryhaggadah and tag @JewishLibraries. AJL members and non-members are welcome to participate; open to the public. No pre-registration required.

Tuesday, March 16, 2021 at 9:30am PT / 12:30pm ET / 6:30pm Israel Time
This event is co-sponsored by the Association of Jewish Libraries and the Association for Jewish Studies. All members of both AJL and AJS are welcome.
Members only. Members, please check your email for the registration link. 

AJL PRESENTS: The Book of V. Discussion/Author Q&A

AJL Presents: The Book of V, 2/22/21

AJL Announces 2021 Jewish Fiction Award

The Association of Jewish Libraries Announces the 2021 Winners of the Jewish Fiction Award

Max Gross is the winner of the Association of Jewish Libraries (AJL) Jewish Fiction Award for his novel The Lost Shtetl, published by HarperVia, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers. The award includes a $1,000 cash prize and support to attend the 57th Annual Conference of the Association of Jewish Libraries,  June 27–July 1, 2021. Two honor books were also recognized: To Be a Man: Stories by Nicole Krauss, published by Harper, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, and Apeirogon: A Novel by Colum McCann, published by Penguin Random House. The Committee reviewed over 70 works of fiction originally written in English with significant Jewish thematic content published in the United States in 2020. Thanks to all those who submitted entries for consideration. The wide array of books published in 2020 is a testament to the vibrant state of contemporary Jewish fiction.

Lost Shtetl Cover Apeirogon Cover  To  Be A Man Cover

In many ways Kreskol, the nominal Lost Shtetl, is a typical 19th century Polish village. It has the expected mix of competing synagogues and schools; happy and miserable families; and comfortable and poor inhabitants. What is surprising about Kreskol is that in Brigadoon style, it survived deep in the forests with no connection to the outside world. Set during the end of the 20th century,  Lost Shtetl  tells the story of a town neglected by time, unaware of the Holocaust or the creation of the state of Israel. When the Polish government “finds” Kreskol, there is massive culture shock on both sides. The Jewish villagers must decide how much to embrace the modern world and the Polish government has to decide how much they want to invest in this small contentious village. “An impressive debut novel, The Lost Shtetl is a thoroughly enjoyable story, with lots of humor, but also incredibly sophisticated, clever, poignant and thought provoking,” noted Laura Schutzman, Chair of the Award Committee.

The ten stories in To Be a Man by Nicole Krauss deal with the struggle to understand what it is to be a man and what it is to be a woman, and all of the tensions in the relationships between parents and children, lovers and friends, husbands and wives. All contemporary, they span the globe from Switzerland, Japan, and New York City to Tel Aviv, Los Angeles, and South America. “Each is impactful and memorable with fully developed characters, often wrestling with their Jewish identity, who stay with you long after the reading experience is over,” commented Rachel Kamin, member of the Award Committee.   

Apeirogon, in telling the story of two fathers, an Israeli and a Palestinian united in grief after losing their daughters to the conflict,  weaves together fiction and nonfiction, crossing centuries and continents, to create a multifaceted and multilayered exploration of history, art, politics, love, loss, hope, and the power of storytelling. An apeirogon is a shape with an infinitely countable number of sides; Apeirogon, the novel, “evokes a mosaic with an infinitely countable number of pieces that have been assembled into a beautifully written, emotionally charged, and exceedingly relevant work of fiction,” remarked Paula Breger, member of the Award Committee. The intricacies and conflicting themes  of Aperigon are sure to elicit much debate and discussion.

The AJL Jewish Fiction Award Committee members are Paula Breger, Beth Dwoskin, Rachel Kamin, Laura Schutzman, and Sheryl Stahl.

The Association of Jewish Libraries gratefully acknowledges the generous support of Dan Wyman Books for underwriting the Award. Submissions for the 2022 AJL Fiction Award (titles published in 2021) are now being accepted. For more information, please visit www.jewishlibraries.org.

The Association of Jewish Libraries is an all-volunteer professional organization that promotes Jewish literacy through enhancement of libraries and library resources and through leadership for the profession and practitioners of Judaica librarianship. The Association fosters access to information, learning, teaching and research relating to Jews, Judaism, the Jewish experience and Israel.

2021 Sydney Taylor Book Award Blog Tour Schedule

The Sydney Taylor Book Award will be showcasing its 2021 gold and silver medalists with a Blog Tour, February 8-12, 2021! Interviews with winning authors and illustrators will appear on a variety of Jewish and kidlit blogs. Interviews will appear on the dates below, and will remain available to read at your own convenience.

Below is the schedule for the 2021 Sydney Taylor Book Award Blog Tour. Please follow the links to visit the hosting blogs on or after their tour dates, and be sure to leave them plenty of comments!


Lesléa Newman and Susan Gal, author and illustrator of Welcoming Elijah
Sydney Taylor Book Award in the Picture Book Category
at A Fuse #8 Production at School Library Journal

Sofiya Pasternack, author of Anya and the Nightingale
Sydney Taylor Honor Book in the Middle Grade Category
at 100 Scope Notes at School Library Journal 


M. Evan Wolkenstein, author of Turtle Boy
Sydney Taylor Book Award in the Middle Grade Category
at Mr. Schu Reads

Jane Yolen and Khoa Lee, author and illustrator of Miriam at the River
Sydney Taylor Honor Book in the Picture Book Category
at 7 Impossible Things Before Breakfast


Anne Blankman, author of The Blackbird Girls
Sydney Taylor Honor Book in the Middle Grade Category
at The Paper Brigade Daily at The Jewish Book Council

Monica Hesse, author of They Went Left
Sydney Taylor Honor Book in the Young Adult Category
at Jewish Books for Kids


Tyler Feder, author of Dancing at the Pity Party
Sydney Taylor Book Award in the Young Adult Category
at Out of the Box at The Horn Book

Mychal Copeland and Andre Ceolin, author and illustrator of I Am the Tree of Life
Sydney Taylor Honor Book in the Picture Book Category
at Good Reads with Ronna


Tziporah Cohen, author of No Vacancy
Sydney Taylor Honor Book in the Middle Grade Category
at From the Mixed-Up Files of Middle Grade Authors

Podcast interview at The Children's Book Podcast

Blog Tour Wrap-Up at The Whole Megillah