3 Powerful Books for Young Readers by Jewish Authors

This week’s Three to Read brings you essential children’s and young adult books from Jewish authors that celebrate the diversity of Jewish culture.

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Held from March 2 to March 10 this year, Jewish Book Week is an annual literary festival hosted in London. Established in 1952, the festival is meant to share Jewish culture, traditions, and ideas with the world through literature. In honor of Jewish Book Week, this week’s edition of Three to Read brings you vital children’s and young adult books from Jewish authors. If you’re interested in learning more about Jewish culture or have a young reader in your life, keep reading for details on this week’s picks!


The Blood Years by Elana K. Arnold

The Blood Years cover by Elana K. Arnold, two sisters standing in front of a city landscape, leaning on each other.


Frederieke Teitler and her older sister, Astra, were abandoned by their father when Rieke was only six. Since then, their grandfather has taken care of them as best he can, but, over the past seven years, their home in Czernowitz has become increasingly unsafe for Jewish people. As Astra falls in love and begins to distance herself from her sister, Rieke feels her sense of stability crumbling. Then, war breaks out and Czernowitz is invaded, putting Rieke and Astra’s entire livelihood in peril. As she struggles against overwhelming power, Rieke is forced to choose between survival and protecting everything precious to her.


The Blood Years by Elana K. Arnold is the 2024 Sydney Taylor Book Award winner in the YA category. This honor recognizes literary works that epitomize high standards and authentically depict the Jewish experience. Arnold drew on her grandmother’s real-life experiences growing up in Holocaust-era Romania to weave an extraordinary coming-of-age tale of sisterhood, betrayal, and love. This is an unmissable and harrowing account of an underrepresented Holocaust experience.


The Jake Show by Joshua S. Levy

The Jake Show cover by Joshua S. Levy, three versions of Jake: one his orthodox self, one his secular self, and one his true self, somewhere in the middle.


When Jewish seventh-grader Jake Lightman’s orthodox mother and secular father get divorced, he finds himself torn between playing two roles: “Yaakov” with his mother and “Jacob” with his father. On his first day at a new school, Jake is surprised to discover that his new friends, Caleb and Tehilla, like him for who he truly is. So, when his friends invite him to Camp Gershoni for the summer, Jake knows he must do everything in his power to get there, even if it means lying to the people that he cares about most.


In this hysterically charming middle-grade novel, award-winning author Joshua S. Levy explores the intricacies of Jewish culture. Heartfelt, authentic, and endlessly funny, this story delves into issues of friendship, family dynamics, and religion to teach important lessons about the cost of lying and what it means to be a good friend. The Jake Show was named a 2024 Sydney Taylor Honor Book, an award that recognizes the best of Jewish children’s literature. For anyone who’s ever felt pulled between two identities, this is a must-read.


Shira and Esther’s Double Dream Debut by Anna E. Jordan

Shira and Esther's Double Dream Debut cover by Anna E. Jordan, Shira and Esther standing side by side, one holding a microphone and sheet music, the other holding the Torah.


When Shira and Esther meet for the first time, they’re shocked by their identical appearances. On the inside, however, the girls couldn’t be more different. Shira wants to be a stage performer, but her devout rabbi father would rather her focus on her prayers than singing and dancing. On the other hand, Esther loves reading the Torah, but her dazzling stage-performer mother is more concerned with Esther’s rehearsals than her studies. Seeing an opportunity to achieve both of their dreams, the girls devise a daring plan to swap places. But will they be able to pull it off?


A Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2023, Shira and Esther’s Double Dream Debut is a delightfully magical middle-grade novel that will entice both children and adults. Described as The Parent Trap meets The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, this book is the perfect combination of humor and heart. Touching on vital themes such as friendship, coming of age, and the need to belong, Shira and Esther’s Double Dream Debut is an ideal read for Jewish, non-Jewish, and bicultural readers alike. Don’t miss this vibrant celebration of Jewish culture!

That’s it for this week’s Three to Read. Thanks for tuning in! We hope you’ll enjoy our picks. Don’t forget to join us next week for more exciting recommendations!

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Browse these books and more reads handpicked by the Bookstr team on our Three to Read bookshelf on Bookshop.org.