Review: We Worship Here: Jewish Synagogue

We Worship Here: Jewish Synagogue

by Angela Wood, illustrated by Emma Trithart

Franklin Watts, 2022

Category: Picture Books
Reviewer: Stacy Nockowitz

We Worship Here: Jewish Synagogue is a title in the We Worship Here series from Franklin Watts. It’s an odd little book. Coming in at 32 pages, it seems like a picture book meant for a very young audience, but the index in the back is not common in picture books. Perhaps it’s an easy reader, but much of the vocabulary and ideas in the book are on the sophisticated side for an early reader. I certainly wouldn’t call it a middle grade book. So, I’m not sure who the audience is for We Worship Here: Jewish Synagogue
There is no indication that the building on the cover is a synagogue, other than a person in a tallit waving from the sidewalk in front of the building. It could just as easily be a mosque or Greek Orthodox church. Each spread addresses a different aspect of Jewish life in a synagogue, from the Ner Tamid to how Jews pray. Perhaps it’s because the book is from Great Britain, but I found a lot of the verbiage quite strange. The book refers to a rabbi as a teacher and preacher; I’ve never heard a rabbi referred to as a preacher before. The page with the “simplified” version of the ten commandments is the strangest, though. The commandments are so watered down as to be unrecognizable. Here, the commandment regarding Shabbat doesn’t even mention Shabbat: “Every week, celebrate a day of rest, peace, and happiness.” The illustrations do show diversity in skin tones and ages, which is appreciated, but there is one illustration that seems to show a cross on a stained glass window.

While it is certainly a book with Jewish content, We Worship Here: Jewish Synagogue should not be considered for the Sydney Taylor Book Award. The quality of the information it contains is not high, and the book itself is bizarre in many ways.

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Reviewer Stacy Nockowitz is a middle school librarian and former language arts teacher with 30+ years of experience in middle grade education. She holds Master's Degrees from Columbia University and Kent State University, and is an MFA candidate in Writing for Children and Young Adults at Vermont College of Fine Arts. Her debut middle grade novel, The Prince of Steel Pier, comes out on September 1, 2022, from Kar-Ben Books. Stacy is an outstanding Jewish mother to her two grown children and lives in Columbus, Ohio, with her husband, Richie, and their perfect cat, Queen Esther.