Grover Goes to Israel – Joni Kibort Sussman and Tom Leigh, Kar-Ben Publishing, 2019
A Seder for Grover – Joni Kibort Sussman and Tom Leigh, Kar-Ben Publishing, 2019
A Hoopoe Says Oop! Animals of Israel – Jamie Kiffel-Alcheh and Ivana Kuman, Kar-Ben Publishing, 2019
Listen! Israel’s All Around – Jamie Kiffel-Alcheh and Steve Mack, Kar-Ben Publishing, 2019
In four new board books for the youngest readers, Kar-Ben Publishing offers an accessible and fun introduction to the Jewish holiday of Passover and the country of Israel. Let’s start with Grover, since his toddler’s personality might make him reluctant to wait too long.
In Grover Goes to Israel, he is fascinated, as you child will be as well, to learn about new places and people. He visits the Machane Yehuda in Jerusalem and gets a delicious falafel sandwich dripping with tahini, and he joins an archaeological dig at Caesarea, which he pronounces “mysterious and awesome.” One of the best features of these little volumes is that they are simple, yet they include vocabulary that older children, and adults, can enjoy. By the way, when Grover prays at the Kotel (Western Wall), he does so in the men’s section. This choice does reflect reality, but it is a disappointing reminder, at least for some readers, that his girl Muppet friends could not join him there.
In A Seder for Grover, Cookie Monster and Big Bird join him, along with Moishe Oofnik, the Israeli version of Oscar the Grouch, at the home of their friend, Avigail, to celebrate Passover. Everyone is cheerful and excited, although Cookie Monster needs to learn that his regular cookies cannot be consumed on this holiday of unleavened bread. Again, a male Muppet recites the Four Questions, a role reserved for the youngest male child. Otherwise, Avigail, who appears to be younger, would enjoy that honor.
A Hoopoe Says Oop! Animals of Israel introduces kids to some residents of Israel with whom they may not be familiar: hyraxes, Canaan dogs, and ibexes, along with the more familiar camels and bats. The cover shows a scene of the animal friends walking and flying about the Jerusalem skyline, and the pictures inside are entertaining scenes of them running and playing in darkness and light, in different natural environments. The book concludes with sound effects, as each animal says “Shalom” in its own “language.”
Listen! Israel’s All Around focuses on people; at the beach on a kibbutz, dancing the hora and swimming in the Dead Sea. Both books are bright and colorful, promoting the idea of Israel as a wonderful place full of both geographic and human-made wonders, and a diverse population of people ready to welcome them. Kar-Ben’s new board books combine rich information with attractive artwork, along with ordinary people and extraordinary Muppets. They encourage curiosity and enthusiasm, and are the perfect first step to learning more about Passover, and the land of Israel.