Friday, August 05, 2016

Book Reviews of Kids’ Books by (my) Kids


We’re back to summer schooling, which includes weekly book reports / reviews (I know there’s a difference, but whatever…).  I thought it would be fun to share a list of book reviews my kids have written over the last however-many years, mainly during the summer.

Hopefully, I’ll update this list as the kids create new reviews.  I’ve vowed that I’m going to make them write one new review each week for the remaining 7 weeks of summer…

(NOTE:  Some of the links are messed up.  I have vowed to fix them but it seems like it’s not going to happen until summer is over.  Forgive me if you hit a broken one!)

Almost a Winner (Teddy Mars)

Almost a Winner (Teddy Mars) - Funny and interesting, a review by GZ, age 8




The BFG The BFG – A Great Classic, Review by YM, age 12 and GZ, age 8




The Fourteenth GoldfishThe Fourteenth Goldfish -  A fun and suspenseful story, a review by NRM, age 11




Schooled Schooled by Gordon Korman, Review by NR, age 11




On Stage, Please - On Stage Please, a review by NRM, age 11




Holes Holes - a review by GZ, age 8



(Click through to see older reviews from previous years, going way, WAY back...!)

Friday, June 24, 2016

Schizophrenia and the Narrow Bridge, thoughts for Parshas Shlach Lecha

Maybe you think this is the age of “let it all hang out,” when Google rules, your friends post their snacks on Facebook, and there are no secrets left in the world.

But believe me, there are still plenty of secrets. And this bold new world may have more in common with the world of the Torah than we’d like to believe, as this week’s parsha shows us.

That’s because what we share on Facebook and other social media is actually a redacted version of our true selves. We tend to forget this, and then we envy other people’s lives. If you’ve ever looked at a friend’s Facebook status and wished that was your life, you know what I’m talking about.

  • · They’re having babies (and at my age, their kids are having babies, too!)… and I’m not.
  • · Their kids – my kids’ age! – are getting married… and mine aren’t.
  • · They’re getting promoted at work… and I’m still sitting here doing the same old thing.
  • · Their children are smart, talented, celebrated… when mine kind of aren’t.
  • · They’re celebrating anniversaries… when my husband and I barely talk to each other.
  • · They’re sharing brilliant ideas about the world… when most days, I have all the insight of a potato.
  • · They’re reaching their fitness goals… while I sometimes can’t even get out of bed.
  • · They post inspiring quotes full of faith… when I sometimes doubt way too much.

I once heard a rav say that that whole thing about “lo sachmod” (not coveting) isn’t just about houses or wives or donkeys.  It’s about the package.

He said that if we could see someone’s whole package – the deal they’ve been handed in life; their upbringing, their family, their career; their health – we would probably not be so eager to trade, no matter what they post about themselves on Facebook.

By the way, I don’t mean we should post more negativity on Facebook! Please don’t!!!

You can see the real effect of negativity from this week’s parsha.  The negative reviews of ten meraglim outweighed the good intentions and happy stick-to-it-iveness of two of the holiest people who have ever lived, Yehoshua bin Nun and Kaleiv ben Yefuneh.

Thursday, June 09, 2016

New Shavuos/Shavuot Story – FREE Download – The Humble Princess Ruth


I’ve been fiddling around for years with the idea of a “princess story” around the story of Megillas Rus.  I actually wrote one and made it available here about six years ago, but I wasn’t happy with it.

This version, The Humble Princess Ruth, is a little closer to what I want to tell.  It’s shorter and I think a little more interesting.  It’s a tough story to retell.  I’ve taken some authorial license here: added some details, left out some others. 

And I still don’t love the title!  If you have a better one, LET me know!!!  Why, oh, why, am I so bad at titles???

Download the story here:

The 4shared site is a little spammy – don’t click on the BIG word “download,” but rather, on the small download button:


I’d love your feedback on this story, either in the comments or directly to me at

And don’t forget – I have a ton of other great Shavuos resources here at this site:  click here to find them.

Chag sameach!!!

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Jewish Book Carnival, May / Iyyar 2016 Edition!


Welcome to this month’s Jewish Book Carnival, brought to you by the concept, from Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, that “Whoever is able to write a book and does not, it is as if he has lost a child.”

As a writer, I know how much creating a book, creating any text, is like giving birth.  And as a reader, how marvellous it is to be handed someone else’s precious and fragile thoughts and words.  May we as a people never lose our fascination with books or our drive to keep creating them.

This carnival has been going on continuously since August of 2010.  The Jewish Book Carnival is headquartered at the Association of Jewish Libraries’ site here.  Stop by for information on past editions or to sign up to host a future issue.

  • Last month’s carnival (April 2016) was hosted by The Book of Life.
  • Next month’s carnival (June 2016) will be hosted by Barbara Krasner at The Whole Megillah
  • And for now, you’re right here… at Adventures in Mamaland!

Read on for the roundup… and if you’re featured in this month’s roundup, be sociable:  click through and visit others’ posts… and tell ‘em I sent you!

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Breathing Lessons for the Canadian diaspora


Growing up as a hyphenated Jewish-Canadian, I admit, the “Canadian” part didn't really matter much.  It was just a word for everybody around me, including me, but mainly everybody else.

These days, being Canadian usually comes up when Israelis ask me, "What part of America are you from?"
The answer, of course, is NONE.

Sure, I could get by on a technicality, since I'm from North America just like United Statesians are.  And Cubans, Barbadians, and many other people.  Heck, even if I was from South America, it's all still America, right?

But that's not what they mean.

What they mean is which state, which major American city?  Am I from LA, New York, one of the handful of other places in the U.S. that a typical Israeli has heard of?

Nope.  I'm from Canada.  Oh, Canada.  Great.  They nod.  They've heard of it.  "Isn't it cold there?"

Canada… is the cold bit, the hat America wears to protect itself from the arctic.

Saturday, May 07, 2016

Yom Ha’Atzmaut 5776: Celebrating Israel with a Free Kids’ Chapter Book Excerpt!


Yom Ha-what???  Yeah, I admit, we never really did anything special for Yom Ha’Atzmaut, Israel Independence Day, before moving to Israel.  And neither did most of the Jews around me. 

Sure, some years we had a flag, maybe even a car flag, but really, that was the extent of it.

It’s so incredible celebrating every single yom tov and chag here in Israel… but especially Yom Ha’Atzmaut.  It just makes sense, but I never gave it much thought before we made aliyah.  Indeed, huge swathes of the Jewish world as I knew it outside of Israel didn’t really celebrate Yom Ha’Atzmaut at all… and that, I’m convinced, is a shame.

And when it comes to Israel, there’s no better way to study its history than by studying its STORIES, the stories of the people who built this incredible place.

The history of modern Israel is inseparable from the story of the life of Naomi Shemer. Born in 1930, she grew up as the country became more mature and established, and became an adult exactly as the country was becoming independent.

So many of the great “folk songs” of Israel’s 20th century were created by Naomi Shemer, but what has always really impressed me is that her writing goes far deeper than the 20th century, all the way back to the times of the nevi’im (prophets) and the words of the Tanach. Though she and her family were not religious, Israel was for her deeply spiritual – more than a homeland, it was a place Jews could live and thrive like nowhere else in the world.

She travelled and spoke passable English but never really reached much fame even in the Jewish world outside of Israel, besides her song Yerushalayim Shel Zahav, Jerusalem of Gold, written just before the six-day war in which the Jews won back the city after thousands of years. (Here’s one version of the song with translated lyrics, sung by Ofra Haza.)

In honour of Israel’s 68th Independence Day this week, I’m sharing an excerpt from my book, Naomi Shemer: Teaching Israel to Sing.

I started writing this book in 2005 after my daughter Naomi Rivka was born and we named her – partly – after Naomi Shemer. I wanted her to really understand who this namesake was. But I didn’t actually finish it until 2013, in the final stages of planning our own move to Israel. Throughout that time, my knowledge and understanding broadened and deepened considerably – as it has continued to do during the almost three years we’ve lived here so far.

Throughout the book, I’ve tried to use scenes from Naomi Shemer’s life, along with her poetic, poignant lyrics, to explore the history of Israel and tie it in with the history of the Jewish people all over the world. It’s history, but the kind of history I love best: one that sets important events within a context that’s enjoyable for adults to read alone or with children.

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Please read on for the free excerpt… and Like, Share, etc if you can!

© 2013 Jennifer Tzivia MacLeod, excerpted with permission.