Author: Richard Michelson
Illustrator: Ron Mazellan
Publisher: Sleeping Bear Press 2008
Audience: ages 5 and up. Grade K-4
Summary: This beautifully illustrated alphabet book offers insights and teachings that have long been at the heart of Jewish traditions and rituals. Starting with A for Abraham and ending with Z for Zayda (the Jewish word for Grandpa), this book links the richness of Biblical and Jewish history with the modern-day rituals that provide a framework for Jewish families to live out their faith today. Written primarily for a Jewish audience, Michelson unintentionally provides some very meaningful connecting points for Christians (who are also part of Abraham’s family.)
Literary elements at work in the story: Written in simple poetry form for younger readers with sidebars of expository text for older readers, this book encourages the whole family to read the rich history of ancient Biblical times and people in connection with the joyous celebrations and practices being observed in Jewish families today. In addition to bridging the ancient with the present, Michelson provides a middle ground in using E to stand for Ellis Island and Albert Einstein (a famous Jewish immigrant) and U for the USA (where half the world’s Jews are living today and worshiping freely.) Realistic artwork designed for children captures the celebrations and joys of living a faith-filled life and draws the reader in to the meanings behind the words.
How does the perspective on gender/race/culture/economics/ability make a difference to the story? Written by a Jewish author for a Jewish audience, Michelson takes great care to show respect for the many customs and beliefs held by modern-day Jews who range from traditional “Orthodox” to the more recent “Humanistic” movements citing that “Judaism is a tree with many different branches, but all are nourished by the same roots.”
The beauty of this book for Christians (another “branch from the same root’) is that in addition to teachings on key Biblical characters (Abraham, Noah, Moses, David, Esther) and significant Biblical places (Israel, Jerusalem, the Temple), this book offers a wealth of understanding of continuing spiritual practices that are shared by Jews and Christians alike (such as observing Shabbat/Sabbath, Tikkun Olam/caring for our world, and Mitzvah/acts of caring for others.)
Theological Conversation Partners: The book ends with Z for Zayda/Grandpa and includes Bubbe/Grandma as two key figures in a child’s life. This is how God’s Story is passed from one generation to the next wrapped up in the teaching of the Sh’ma in Deuteronomy 6:4-9. Here Moses speaks to the children of Israel and sets before them the rules for living as God’s children. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home…” Deuteronomy 6:20 also includes a mandate for the older generation (“When your children ask you in time to come, what is the meaning…”) to teach the next generation who God is and what God expects. Then, as Moses nears the end of his leadership, he relaxes and offers a softer, beautiful song in Deuteronomy 32:2, “May my teaching drop like the rain, my speech condense like the dew; like gentle rain on grass, like showers on new growth.”
For Presbyterians, connecting with the roots of our Jewish ancestors in teaching our young is easy when we utilize one of our PCUSA resources, Belonging to God: A First Catechism. Written for children in 1998 and adopted by the 210th General Assembly to provide instruction in the Christian faith to younger members of the church, this updated, easier-to-understand version of the Westminster Shorter Catechism, provides 60 Questions and Answers to help parents, grandparents, teachers, pastors, and children give voice to the words of faith that form who we are as children of God.
Bonus for this Book: The publisher has provided a downloadable Teacher’s Guide for this book containing 27 pages of activities linked to the alphabet insights given in the book. Here you will find games, puzzles, discussion starters, craft activities and more designed to help parents and teachers further engage young readers with the richness of the Jewish heritage. The Teacher’s Guide is available free of charge and can be downloaded HERE.
Faith Talk Questions:
- How have you learned about God? How have you learned God’s Story?
- Name the people in your life who have taught you God’s story and helped you find God in your story.
- How have they helped you claim and live out your identity as a child of God?
- In what ways do you live as a child of God each day? Think about the things you do and say. How do you proclaim and share God’s love to those around you?
- How can you pass along your faith to the next generation?
This review is written by alumna and regular reviewer Krista Lovell.
A is for Abraham by Storypath is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.