Naama Barak
November 23, 2023, Updated April 10

For many in Israel and around the world, the upcoming holidays will be like no others. The death, devastation and dreadful worry of these last weeks have all left their mark on us – and on our children. 

We can think of no better way to escape our worries than with the help of a good book, and have therefore compiled suggestions that are bound to delight young readers this winter. 

We’ve incorporated a mix of true Israeli classics and more recent offerings, covering a range of ages from preschool to middle school.

We wish you the happiest holidays possible, and a wonderful time curled up with the following books.

Big Cat, Small Cat by Ami Rubinger, ages 2-5

Big Cat, Small Cat is a perfect book for toddlers learning new words – the last word on each page is left out, waiting for a young reader to complete the rhyme. 

Ami Rubinger both authored and illustrated the book, one of his many for young audiences, and the colorful sketches, funny ideas and sing-along rhythm all make it a favorite bedtime read.

A Tale of Five Balloons by Miriam Roth, ages 2-5

You’ll be hard-pressed to find any Israeli, of any age, who can’t quote at least a couple of lines from this perennial favorite. 

Originally published in 1974, the book tells the story of five children and their five balloons, all of which of course end up bursting at one stage or another. The characters, and toddler readers, learn how to deal with anticipation, sadness and loss in a seemingly simple way that is actually full of charm and wisdom. 

Flash the Fish by Paul Kor, ages 3-5

Flash the Fish can probably be found in virtually every Hebrew-speaking home in Israel, and for good reason. 

This lovely book tells the story of Flash, a little silvery fish out on adventure who ends up helping a lost baby whale find his parents. Toddlers can admire the silvery colors in the book, the incredible illustrations, and the heartwarming tale of friendship between big and small.

Room for Rent by Leah Goldberg, ages 3-8

Room for Rent is an absolute Israeli classic – it even has its own Wikipedia entry. Authored by national writer and poet Leah Goldberg, it tells the story of a five-story house whose top floor becomes available for rent. 

The residents of all the other floors – a chicken, a cuckoo, a cat and a squirrel – all object to the various viewers who come to check out the house. Finally, a dove settles in place, deciding to move in because she likes the neighbors so much.

The book battles prejudices, stereotypes and ugly behaviour in a most humorous way, showing children how important it is to see the best in everyone. The illustrations are famous in their own right, and the book will be sure to appeal to preschool and young elementary school children, as well as their parents. 

Shani’s Shoebox by Rinat Hoffer, ages 4-8

Rinat Hoffer is a beloved contemporary Israeli children’s author and illustrator. Shani’s Shoebox is a prime example of her fun and colorful work. 

It tells the story of Shani, a girl who receives new shoes for the Jewish New Year and keeps the box they came in to reuse throughout the other festivals on the Jewish calendar, helping young readers to learn all about the different festivals and their hallmarks.

A Snake, a Flood, a Hidden Baby: Bible Stories for Children by Meir Shalev, ages 4-8

Meir Shalev was a much-loved, serious author who also wrote riotously funny books for kids. In A Snake, a Flood, a Hidden Baby, he brings his magical charm to the already compelling stories of the Bible, giving them fresh perspective and emphasis that are bound to pique the interest and thought of young readers.  

Dream Big, Laugh Often: And More Great Advice from the Bible by Hanoch Piven, ages 4-8

Sticking with the Bible theme yet taking it in a whole different direction, Dream Big, Laugh Often is a recent offering by Hanoch Piven, one of the most famous artists in Israel. This book was listed by Kirkus Reviews as one of the most empowering picture books of 2023.

Piven uses everyday artifacts to create unique collages. In this book, he created portraits of 14 biblical figures such as Abraham and Sarah, Moses and King David, and the objects that they’re made out of are meant to reflect the advice their stories can impart on modern-day readers.

How It’s Made: Hanukkah Menorah by Allison Ofanansky, ages 4-8

Eliyahu Alpern’s photographs adorn this picture book by an award-winning American Israeli author. In addition to explaining how to use the menorah, with the Hebrew blessings in translation and transliteration, readers will see the materials often used in fashioning this popular ritual item – brass, wood, glass and more – and get instructions for making their own menorah, latkes, candles, olive oil, and dreidels.

The Mermaid in the Bathtub by Nurit Zarchi and Rutu Modan, ages 5-10

For all the Little Mermaid lovers, The Mermaid in the Bathtub is the one for you. A fresh take on the beloved fairytale, the beautifully illustrated adventures of Mr. Whatwilltheysay and a mermaid called Grain-of-Sand make quite a splash, leaving readers delighted. 

Unstoppable Us by Yuval Noah Harari, ages 8-11

Historian Yuval Noah Harari needs little introduction, and now younger audiences can join in on the history of mankind fun with this kid-friendly version of his original bestseller, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind

The two-volume Unstoppable Us is beautifully illustrated and touches upon the same themes as Sapiens in an engaging and interesting manner. Volume 1 deals with how humans took over the world, while Unstoppable Us, Volume 2 explores why the world isn’t fair – an important topic if ever there was one. 

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