This May, a young reader reached out and asked for a reading list for Jewish American Heritage Month. The library realized that it had not yet shared a list for this special month that recognizes and honors the contributions of Jewish-Americans across the nation. As our reader wrote to us, "it is really special to have yourself represented in books." We agree, and we appreciate our readers reaching out to us to let us know how we can continually expand how we show up for our diverse communities. You are what makes our library special!
This list is specially curated for middle grades readers like the one who wrote into the library that should spark curiosity and imagination no matter your interests.
Aviva vs. the Dybbuk, Mari Lowe
A long ago accident. An isolated girl named Aviva. A community that wants to help, but doesn't know how. And a ghostly dybbuk, that no one but Aviva can see, causing mayhem and mischief that everyone blames on her. That is the setting for this suspenseful novel of a girl who seems to have lost everything, including her best friend Kayla, and a mother who was once vibrant and popular, but who now can't always get out of bed in the morning. As tensions escalate in the Jewish community of Beacon with incidents of vandalism and a swastika carved into new concrete poured near the synagogue, so does the tension grow between Aviva and Kayla and the girls at their school, and so do the actions of the dybbuk grow worse.
Aces Wild, Erica S. Perl
Zelly Fried has finally convinced her parents to let her get a dog, with the help of her grandfather Ace. Unfortunately, said dog (also named Ace) is a shoe-chewing, mud-tracking, floor-peeing kind of dog. Despite Zelly's best efforts to drag Ace (literally!) to puppy kindergarten, his flunking report card says it all: "This Ace is wild."
Also wild is the other Ace in Zelly's life. Grandpa Ace has decided to begin dating again and is dining and dancing every night, against his doctor's orders. Determined to get both Aces under control, Zelly enlists the help of her two best friends, Allison and Jeremy (despite the fact that they don't quite see eye to eye). They need to come up with a plan, fast. But how? It's not like either Ace ever does what he's told.
The Backyard Secrets of Danny Wexler, Karen Pokras
Eleven-year-old Danny Wexler, the only Jewish boy in his blue-collar town during the late 1970s, is obsessed with the Bermuda Triangle. When a local child goes missing, Danny's convinced it's connected to an old Bermuda Triangle theory involving UFOs. With his two best friends and their Spacetron telescope, Danny heads to his backyard to investigate. But hunting for extraterrestrials is complicated, and it doesn't help that his friend Nicholas's mom doesn't want her son hanging out with a Jewish boy. Equipped with his super-secret spy notebook, Danny sets out to fight both the aliens and the growing anti-Semitism in the town, in hopes of mending his divided community.
Anya and the Dragon, Sofiya Pasternack
Anya and the Dragon is the story of fantasy and mayhem in tenth century Eastern Europe, where headstrong eleven-year-old Anya is a daughter of the only Jewish family in her village.
When her family's livelihood is threatened by a bigoted magistrate, Anya is lured in by a friendly family of fools, who promise her money in exchange for helping them capture the last dragon in Kievan Rus. This seems easy enough, until she finds out that the scary old dragon isn't as old--or as scary--as everyone thought. Now Anya is faced with a choice: save the dragon, or save her family.
And don't miss Anya and the Nightingale, the magical conclusion to the Anya and the Dragon duology for middle grade readers!
White Bird: A Wonder Story, R.J. Palacio
Palacio makes her graphic novel debut with Grandmère's heartrending story: how she, a young Jewish girl, was hidden by a family in a Nazi-occupied French village during World War II; how the boy she and her classmates once shunned became her savior and best friend.
Sara's harrowing experience movingly demonstrates the power of kindness to change hearts, build bridges, and even save lives. As Grandmère tells Julian, "It always takes courage to be kind, but in those days, such kindness could cost you everything." With poignant symbolism and gorgeous artwork that brings Sara's story out of the past and cements it firmly in this moment in history, White Bird is sure to captivate anyone who was moved by the book Wonder or the blockbuster movie adaptation and its message.