Thursday, October 30, 2014

No, we’re not all the same (even though I wish we were)

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“What might save us, me and you… is if the Russians love their children, too.”  Singer / songwriter Sting wrote that near the end of the Cold War, when we still thought Russians were going to be the death of us (listen here or watch it below).

I came of age with these optimistic words ringing in my ears – and the assumption that, since our enemies are just like us, we’ll ultimately find peace.

I hate to say it, but Sting lied to a whole generation of us.  We’re really not all the same.

A friend said in a dvar Torah last week that while Migdal Bavel (the Towel of Babel) was being built, the builders had tremendous unity of purpose.  They were all working together in harmony. It was the first and last time all the people of the world worked together with such clarity. 

So why did Hashem object, to the point of smashing the tower and scattering the people?

My friend explained that if one of the builders fell down from the tower to his death, the others wouldn’t cry.  No big deal; they had lots of people.  If a brick fell down, however… it was the end of the world. 

At the time, bricks were the hottest new technology.  They’d just been invented, and they were hard to make.  There were also no sophisticated modern ovens, so bricks tended to be fragile and crumble easily.

Bricks were valuable.  People were throwaways.

You wouldn’t believe anyone was like that today, would you?  Like Sting says, we’re all basically the same, with the same values, right?

Reluctantly, I don’t think so anymore.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Hashem's Amazing World: three terrific science / nature books for Jewish kids

The Hashem's Amazing World series, by Jennifer Tzivia MacLeod

Looking for a way to share the wonders of science and nature with Jewish kids?
These books may be the answer.
I don't post a lot of brags on here, but I wanted to quickly pop in and let you know how excited I am about this series - the Hashem's Amazing World series.  
The first book, Zoom: A Trip to the Moon, has been out for a while.  But the other two have been sitting in various stages of Technical Difficulty-land for a few months while life caught up with us and I had to deal with other things (excuse me, did I mention I just moved to another continent last year?).

I love looking at all the covers lined up like this (and at home, lining up the real thing is even more thrilling)...

What are they all about???

Zoom! A trip to the moon - explores the moon, earth and space, and gets our little explorer home in time for Shabbat.

Buzz! A teeny tiny world - gets down and dirty with some actual bugs (and a spider), and explores why Hashem put bugs here in the first place.

Baby! Life before birth - discreetly explores what happens before a baby is born from a spiritual and physical perspective.  In case you're worried, when I say discreet, I mean it - I've tried to strike a balance between sharing information and letting parents decide how much their kids are ready to know.  Here are two sample images.  Click through to see more.



What's next???

I'm definitely interested in suggestions for future books.  Someone suggested dinosaurs.  Now THERE is a topic that would be terrific with a lot of kids, but needs to be handled very carefully from a perspective of hashkafa.

Any other thoughts?

Tzivia / צִיבְיָה

Friday, October 17, 2014

MamaLand Review: Every Picture Tells a Story, a new illustrated weekly parsha book for kids

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How are parsha books like popcorn?  You can’t have just one! 

If you’re anything like our family, you already have a preponderance of parsha books. 

But it’s impossible to have “enough,” isn’t it?  Especially when it comes to finding great kids’ parsha books that are both appealing to kids and reflect your family’s hashkafa (religious outlook).  And especially if the author isn’t afraid to do something a little different.  So when the chance to review a new parsha book that combines words and pictures in an innovative new format came along, I got a bit excited. 

There’s a good chance that this book may be just right for your family.

For my review, I received free from the publisher both the hardcover Every Picture Tells a Story Volume One:  Bereishis (Menorah Books: 2014) and the accompanying softcover colouring book:

cover, Every Picture Tells a Story cover, Every Picture Tells a Story (colouring book)

Aren’t those great covers?  They’re bilingual!  And they tell you exactly what you’re going to get inside. 

(I don’t love the fact that on Amazon, you can’t use “Look Inside” to peek into the books, but the publisher has previews on their website instead.  Smart marketing would suggest that they include a URL to these previews in the book description on Amazon, because I was not the only one deterred by this.)

Here’s what I loved about the book, right off the bat: