Review: Debbie's Song: The Debbie Friedman Story

Debbie's Song: The Debbie Friedman Story

by Ellen Leventhal, illustrated by Natalia Grebtsova

Kar-Ben Publishing (imprint of Lerner Publishing Group), 2023

Category: Picture Books
Reviewer: Belinda Brock

Buy at

When the readers are introduced to little Debbie Friedman, we learn that she always had music inside of her—in fact, it was her superpower. We follow along on her sometimes challenging journey as she expresses that superpower with her family, at Jewish summer camps, on a kibbutz in Israel, in synagogues, Carnegie Hall, and ultimately, the world at large. Debbie accomplished what she set out to do: create community while writing "Jewish music that would welcome, include, and honor the voices of everyone."

The author and illustrator have accomplished their goal of creating a book that celebrates Debbie Friedman and honors her legacy. Their passion for their subject shines through and makes this book sing. The lovely lyrical text, the pacing, the flow, the word choice all combine to keep a young reader engaged, entertained, and encouraged. The art is also pitch perfect: colorful, appealing, detailed, expressive, and creative. I love how musical notes dance across the pages and how Debbie's music is bursting with everything good in the world.

Art continues to flow through the child-friendly back matter, which provides more details of Debbie's life, a glossary of Hebrew words (including pronunciation), photographs, and an author's note explaining her connection to the subject of this biography.

This book is rich in themes that will spark discussion about community-building, the power of music, determination, following your passions, creativity, inclusivity, and more. And of course, many children will be moved to listen to, sing, or play Debbie Friedman's music after enjoying this inspirational story. Debbie's Song would be a welcome addition to any home, school, or library collection, though particularly valuable in a Jewish setting.

This book meets the criteria for the Sydney Taylor Book Award. It is appropriate for its targeted readers in style, vocabulary, format, and illustrations.This book depicts Judaism in a positive and authentic manner with accurate and well-researched details. We see characters of different skin colors, levels of observance, and ages. Although of particular interest to Jewish families, any child will benefit from learning about a girl who loved music, people, and her religion—and wanted to heal the world. 

Illustration Editor Dena Bach adds: Be aware that in the illustration on page 20 where Debbie's words and music become a tree, the complete word for G-d is written out in Hebrew letters, which according to halacha, Jewish law, adds a degree of holiness. Therefore, according to halacha, when this book becomes worn out or to be discarded, this page should be put in a geniza, a repository for sacred manuscripts and ritual objects.

Are you interested in reviewing books for The Sydney Taylor Shmooze? Click here!

Reviewer Belinda Brock earned a MS in Literacy and Language from University of Chicago and her background is in teaching and educational publishing. She authored GG and Mamela, the first children’s book to address hospice care. Her essays have been featured on Kveller, Jewish Women’s Archive, and HuffPost.


  1. Thank you for this lovely review.

  2. Thank you for this lovely review. I am honored and humbled that you like the book.

  3. What a wonderful review, Belinda. I just bought the book. It looks terrific.


Post a Comment