Review: DIJ: Do It Jewish
D.I.J. Do It Jewish: Use Your Jewish Creativity by Barbara Bietz, illustrated by Daria Grinevich
A celebration of creativity with a Jewish bent, DIJ: Do It Jewish inspires kids ages 8-12 to take a fresh look at some of their favorite endeavors and to try something new, as well. This debut middle grade offering from Jewish publisher Intergalactic Afikomen, DIJ: Do It Jewish covers seven categories: filmmaking, songwriting, art, cooking, graphic novels and cartooning, midrash, and Judaica. Each chapter offers encouragement and advice from a Jewish expert in that field, as well as ideas on how to begin to tackle a new project and see it through. The book uses appealing, jewel-toned colors and Daria Grinevich’s lovely illustrations to complement the upbeat, easy-to-read text.
Chapters are divided into two sections. The first helps get the creative juices flowing as a successful practitioner talks about where ideas come from, some of their tricks-of-the-trade, and how to infuse your project with Jewish creativity. These experts offer encouragement and express their passion for their art in ways that are sure to light a spark for readers. The second section takes a deep dive into the craft with another expert in the field. Each chapter ends with a list of possible approaches to a Jewish project for that area. DIJ: Do It Jewish is not without its flaws. The book could have used additional editing, as there are a number of errors on the pages that should have been caught before publication. In addition, there’s a fair amount of repetition in the advice and ideas offered: use your family’s stories and traditions to guide you; practice and experiment often; do your research. Perhaps the author could have included a hands-on activity in each chapter and edited out some of the repetitious text.
DIJ: Do It Jewish is chock full of Jewish content and sensibility. Like a good teacher, Beitz poses question after question, encouraging the reader to think deeper and explore further. Middle grade readers may not even be aware of the variety of Jewish artists and creatives that they can look to for inspiration, and DIJ: Do It Jewish introduces them to talented and accessible Jewish role models. The book is rooted in the Jewish experience and is appropriate in every way for its intended audience. I hope the Sydney Taylor Committee can overlook its newbie missteps and consider DIJ: Do It Jewish as a possible Honor Book.
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Reviewer Stacy Nockowitz is a middle school librarian and former language arts teacher. Stacy received her Bachelor’s Degree from Brandeis University and holds Master's Degrees from Columbia University Teachers College and Kent State University. She is also an MFA candidate in Writing for Children and Young Adults at the Vermont College of Fine Arts. Her debut middle grade novel, THE PRINCE OF STEEL PIER, will be published by Kar-Ben in the fall of 2022.