Yom Kippur is the holiest day of the year in the Jewish faith. Also known as the Day of Atonement, it is often observed with prayer, fasting, and asking for forgiveness for things that may have hurt others. Our family did not know much about this special observance, so we turned to some excellent children’s books about Yom Kippur.
These books explore both the rituals of Yom Kippur and the spirit behind it: one of saying “I’m sorry,” making amends, and moving forward in love. Whether you observe Yom Kippur or just want to learn, I think you’ll enjoy these books!
13 Yom Kippur Books for Kids
Sammy Spider’s First Yom Kippur by Sylvia A. Rouss — The Sammy Spider series is an excellent collection of picture books about the Jewish faith. In this installment, Sammy learns more about Yom Kippur with his mother. When his friend Josh gets in trouble for playing ball inside, Sammy sees what it means to apologize and why saying “I’m sorry” is important.
Talia and the Very Yum Kippur by Linda Marshall — Talia is so excited about helping her grandmother prepare for Yom Kippur…but she mishears and thinks it’s YUM Kippur! Funny confusions abound as Talia helps her grandmother make kugel. The Talia series is another great collection of books about Jewish holidays.
The Hardest Word: A Yom Kippur Story by Jacqueline Jules — The Ziz is a big, beautiful bird, but he’s also very clumsy. When he ruins a children’s garden with his clumsiness, God tells him to make atonement by bringing God “the hardest word.” He tries many words to no avail, but eventually he realizes what God is asking for. A lovely story about the power of an apology.
On Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur by Cathy Goldberg Fishman — A young girl shares all the ways she can tell Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are near: cards wishing La Shana Tova, a special meal, and worship at the temple. This beautifully illustrated book is perfect for sharing with school-aged children.
Sound the Shofar!: A Story for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur by Leslie Kimmelman — This book follows a Jewish family as they celebrate Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur together. Uncle Jake sounds the shofar at the synagogue, and the family brings food items to the synagogue with them on Yom Kippur to help those less fortunate. A lovely introduction to the rituals associated with these special days.
Celebrate Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur: With Honey, Prayers, and the Shofar by Deborah Heiligman — This nonfiction book shows how the Jewish High Holy Days are celebrated all over the world. There are many gorgeous photographs, and descriptions of the rituals of these holidays and the meaning behind them. This book is a great introduction for those learning about these holidays for the first time.
You Never Heard of Sandy Koufax?! by Jonah Winter – Even though Sandy Koufax was one of the best players in the game of baseball, he still faced discrimination as one of few Jewish players. When the Jewish High Holy Day of Yom Kippur coincided with the 1965 World Series, Koufax made the controversial decision not to pitch, because doing so would conflict with his religious beliefs. This excellent biography teaches much about dealing with prejudice and standing up for your beliefs in a challenging situation.
Days of Awe by Eric Kimmel – This book features three retellings of traditional Jewish folktales. The stories focus on the value of charity, forgiveness, and genuine love and repentance. Each story is accompanied by lovely illustrations by Erika Weihs. Though these are religious stories, the values they teach are important for families of any faith or families that aren’t religious. I recommend these stories for kids ages 8 and up.
The Magic of Kol Nidre by Bruce H. Siegel – The opening prayer of the Yom Kippur service is the Kol Nidre. It is first chanted softly, then louder, then at full voice. In this story, the narrator uses each recitation of the Kol Nidre to reflect on the prayer from different points in his life: as a boy, as a young man, and as an old man. He comes to realize that the true magic of the Kol Nidre is how it unites Jewish people from all over the world. This beautiful book is great for kids ages 6 and up.
Yussel’s Prayer by Barbara Cohen – This simple story focuses on having a true and genuine heart. As Reb Meir and his eldest son pray on Yom Kippur, they merely mouth the prayers, but their minds are on themselves and their own desires. Yussel is just a poor orphan boy and a shepherd, and while he is not as educated as Reb Meir or his son, the prayers of Yussel’s heart are pure. This folktale is great for kids ages 7 and up.
Yom Kippur Shortstop by David A. Adler – Jacob loves baseball, and he’s never missed a Little League game. However, this year the big championship game falls on Yom Kippur. Jacob isn’t sure what he should do — does he miss the game to observe Yom Kippur? Or does he show up to the game but miss out on an important day for his faith? This book is excellent for reading with kids ages 5 to 10.
Red, Blue and Yellow Yarn by Miriam Kosman – Danny’s Bubby is very prim and proper, and Danny is…not. He’s a rough-and-tumble little boy who has a way of getting into mischief. When Danny gets tangled up in Bubby’s yarn, he’s sure she will be furious with him. However, when Danny apologizes, he learns that his proper Bubby was once a curious child herself, and that she knows a thing or two about getting into trouble.
Sam and Charlie (and Sam, Too) by Leslie Kimmelman – Sam is excited that a new kid named Charlie is moving in next door, but he’s a little surprised when Charlie turns out to be a girl! Nevertheless, Sam and Charlie, and Charlie’s little sister, Sam, become good friends. All three children are Jewish, and they are learning about their faith and the power of friendship together. This book is made up of several short stories, including one called “I’m Sorry Day” that is perfect for Yom Kippur. It’s an excellent choice for those who are beginning to read independently.
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