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PJ Library books “have been imprinted on my life”

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There is no bigger fan of the PJ Our Way reading program in Cleveland – or anywhere! -than Naomi Baskind, seen with 3 of her favourite books. (Photo: Supplied)

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In April I wrote an article about my favorite PJ Library books. The branch of PJ Library that caters to 9-12 year olds is called PJ Our Way, and I have also loved reading the books from them. Every month I receive an email from PJ Our Way asking me to choose a book out of four options. That book arrives at my house four to six weeks later. Like the picture books from PJ Library, the PJ Our Way chapter books have also helped shape my Jewish identity.

Some of the PJ Our Way books I have enjoyed the most are “Becoming Brianna” (by Terri Libenson), “Going Rogue (at Hebrew School)” (by Casey Breton), and “OyMG” (by Amy Fellner Dominy). Each book has some sort of moral or tells a story about Jewish kids, especially teens. 

I have read “Becoming Brianna” by Terri Libenson several times. It’s a part of a series called Emmie and Friends, which isn’t always Jewish in theme, but this book has a Jewish perspective. The book is a graphic novel and it goes back and forth between Brianna’s point of view in the past and then in the present. Brianna’s mom is Jewish and her dad is Christian.

Brianna hates being onstage and the center of attention unlike her mother who loves to act. She’s more like her father who likes science and academics. Finally her mother convinces Brianna, who is shy, to have a bat mitzvah. She is nervous about the big day but her family, friends, and cantor calm her down. In the end she says the prayers and gives her d’var Torah, and most importantly, Brianna is proud of herself.

I really like this book because it’s relatable. Brianna has trouble learning some prayers and finds some aspects of her training stressful. I have not had my bat mitzvah yet, but it’s coming up in March. The training can be a little hard, so I do relate.  

Going Rogue (at Hebrew School) by Casey Breton is about a ten-year old boy named Avery Green. He does not like Hebrew school because in his mind there is no scientific explanation for Bible stories, instead preferring football, science, and Star Wars.

When a new rabbi shows up at synagogue, Avery thinks his recently hired spiritual leader, Rabbi Bob, is actually a Jedi Master because one day he peeks into the rabbi office and sees a red light which, in fact, turns out to be a lightsaber! The book tells the story of Avery’s attempts to see if his hunch is true. Along with his friend Gideon, who is in Hebrew school with him, the pair tries to figure out the truth.

Rabbi Bob does not turn out to be a Jedi Master but rather an avid collector of Star Wars memorabilia. He teaches Avery and his friends in the congregation how to use a lightsaber. Even more, he engages with all the kids at Hebrew school on their level. In doing so, Rabbi Bob gets the kids excited about attending Hebrew school. I love the story because Rabbi Bob is fun and makes lots of Star Wars references, two unlikely allies become friends, and the former bully becomes nice.

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OyMG by Amy Fellner Dominy is about a girl named Ellie Taylor, who also has one Christian and one Jewish parent, who loves to debate. She gets accepted into the Christian Society Speech and Performing Arts summer camp.

Her Zeydeh, with whom she argues all the time, does not think this is a good idea.

As soon as she gets to camp she catches the eye of Devon Yeats, whose grandmother is Doris Yeats, the donor for a scholarship Ellie needs to attend Benedicts (a great school for debating).

Naomi Baskind described the kids book OyMG, by Amy Fellner Dominy, as totally enjoyable because she could rela of themes, especially about a girl being proud to be Jewish (Photo: Supplied)

For the interview, Devon advises Ellie to hide her Star of David necklace that used to be her Bubbe’s. Ellie agrees even though she is unsure. And then Ellie marks Christian on the scholarship application. Hoping to impress Doris, and with a huge crush on Devon, Ellie accompanies them to church. When going to church Ellie fakes all the prayers.

Zeydeh is mad that Ellie lies and so to expose her, he dresses up in a tallis and black coat for a play at the summer camp.

Later Doris explains that she actually knew that Ellie is Jewish and that she did not like Jews. Ellie realizes that Doris is an antisemite and regrets her actions. Ellie’s final summer debate is about how she’s proud to be Jewish.

I really like this story because Ellie seems ashamed and then realizes how wrong she was – that her Jewishness should be celebrated. I like the debate competitions and the family moments. I honestly love the whole book. 

PJ Our Way books are amazing, I love them and will be sad when I stop getting them, which is soon because the program ends when I turn thirteen. But I surely know that these books have been imprinted on my life. The books take up a big portion of my bookshelf and I will treasure them forever.

Naomi Baskind is a Jewish girl growing up in Cleveland. She is on the local swim team and loves reading fiction. Naomi is a member of the Global Jewish Pen Pal program.

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Happy reading!

Thank you for choosing TheJ.Ca as your source for Canadian Jewish News.

We do news differently!

Our positioning as a Zionist News Media platform sets us apart from the rest. While other Canadian Jewish media are advocating increasingly biased progressive political and social agendas, TheJ.Ca is providing more and more readers with a welcome alternative and an ideological home.

We revealed the incursion of anti-Israel progressive elements such as IfNotNow into our communities. We have exposed the distorted hateful agenda of the “progressive” left political radicals who brought Linda Sarsour to our cities, and we were first to report on many disturbing incidents of Nazi-based hate towards Jews across Canada.

But we can’t do it alone. We need your HELP!

Our ability to thrive and grow in 2020 and beyond depends on the generosity of committed readers and supporters like you.

Monthly support is a great way to help us sustain our operations. We greatly appreciate any contributions you can make to support Jewish Journalism.

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