Review: My Israel and Me

My Israel and Me

by Alice Blumenthal McGinty, illustrated by Rotem Teplow

Kalaniot Books (imprint of Endless Mountains)

Category: Picture Books
Reviewer: Sandy Wasserman

This is the perfect book for introducing the diversity that exists in Israel. In gentle rhymes and careful detailed illustrations, the young picture book reader is introduced to Israel’s bustling city life, kibbutz life, Bedouin life, Arab/Muslim life, Christian life, and Jewish life, all coexisting. Even the cats in Israel play a part in this book, along with the history of how there came to be so many cats. Theres’s the varied geography of this nation (the size of New Jersey), the Negev’s geography, and the story of Israel’s farms and fields, and animals. A double page spread for the tourist enhances the reader’s inclusion in Israel’s story. Some books have back matter for the parent or teacher; this book offers additional information in a small paragraph accompanying each double page spread, which greatly enhances each section in an immediate way.
While not a Jewish book per se, Jewish life is one of the topics covered in this picture book. It’s not a religious book; there’s no mention of the Kotel, but as each ethnicity living in Israel is mentioned, there’s a Jewish family life scene that’s very informative. Inclusive books about Israel are much-needed within the children's literature.
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Reviewer Sandy Wasserman is a retired teacher of Gifted and Talented students, and taught for 35 years in both public schools and at a Solomon Schechter Day School. She's a wife, mother of two adult daughters, and grandmother to two fantastic 'first readers' of her manuscripts. Her published book, The Sun's Special Blessing [2009], was her first serendipitous and fun experience in the publishing world. She loves to read and swim, though not at the same time.