Looking for Kosher Books?

Man and boy in library

What do you think — Kosher, or only kosher style?

Why did I use “kosher” to describe the content of this web page?

1) Most of my fans are Jewish, and they are familiar with the term. For those in the know, yes, I’m bageling you! If you are not, see here.

2) The word “kosher” means “proper” or “fit.” Specifically, things that are kosher are permitted by Jewish law. We’re not just talking food!

As an Orthodox Jewish parent and former teacher who is also a writer, I often get this request:

How do I find “Kosher” books for my kids?

While I do publish reviews and book lists on Amazon and Goodreads, I can’t claim that I’ve covered even a small fraction of the books out there. Two sites (not Jewish) that cover more ground are:

However, the standards are not identical with what the “Kosher” reader might be looking for.

The best, most detailed list I have found thus far is this gem from Alisa Avruch and Sharon Schwartz (click below to view the PDF and download it with permission from the authors):

Complete book list with updates to 2015 

Mesdames Avruch and Schwartz sort books out according to various criteria, which they explain in the must-read cover letter to their document. After a pretty close reading of the list, I think I only disagreed with their “grades” twice, but because of their detailed explanations, it wasn’t hard to see where our opinions differed and why.

7 thoughts on “Looking for Kosher Books?

  1. I got this response from my friend, CK:

    Beverly Cleary books such as Henry Huggins and Ramona and Beezus are kosher style due to references to Halloween, Xmas, Valentines’ Day and the occasional use of the word “dumb.” We enjoyed listening on c.d. , while fast -forwarding the less desirable parts.

    I also want to add that I don’t like Frog and Toad very much and consider it to be kosher style. Some sections are fine and others hage Xmas or undesirable middos. At times , however, I take advantage of the less ideal sections to talk about the middos with my kids and discuss what we think is derech eretz and how to phrase things on a way that is befitting to a yid.

    Kosher : Mr. Putter series, some Henry and Mudge (some I would call kosher style ).

    Kosher style :Little House on the Prarie series (some Xmas and mixed dancing , but otherwise fabulous. ) I read these books aloud and they become glatt.

    My kids just LOVED Little House on the Prairie Books, especially Farmer Boy. And we’re big into Ramona and Henry Huggins — we just skip the Halloween bits, Xmas chapters, and stuff, but that’s harder once the kids become readers. At a certain point, our kids learned that those holidays are for other people and they just don’t belong to us.

    One of the biggest debates in the discussion of what makes a “kosher” book is the role of good/bad middos. I think that most people would consider Frog and Toad more kosher than kosher style (excluding Xmas references) because usually Toad’s bad middos are countered by Frog’s good ones. On the other hand, Diary of a Wimpy Kid is clearly treif, because there is no such balance or “correction” provided to an excess of onaas devarim and so on.

    A lot of librarians have refused to make a kosher book list in the past because these distinctions are so subjective…that’s why the Avruch/Schwartz list contains so many explanations on the right side of the chart. They felt that such detail was necessary for parents and teachers to make truly informed decisions.

    Thanks for contributing your selections here!

    Like

  2. The Wall and the Wing by Laura Ruby is kosher style. My eldest kids loved it. I confess that I read it and found it hilarious. The sequel, The Chaos King, starts bordering on treif. Anyway, my kids found it boring.

    I just got the eldest kids a book that I enjoyed many years ago, Magic Kingdom for Sale -Sold! by Terry Brooks. It’s basically kosher style. Its only off-putting reference is to the Macy’s Xmas catalog; only the catalog is important to the plot, not the holiday itself.

    My boys like the Baseball Card Fantasies, in which kids travel through time via enchanted baseball cards and have adventures involving old-time famous players. The stories are totally kosher.

    Like

    • Thanks for your reading leads (there were a few unfamiliar to me)! And I’m posting here the follow-up from your email:

      “Anyway, I keep thinking of books to add to my list. They enjoyed the Little House series very much. I’m currently reading to them 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. [Daughter] enjoys the Jewish Girls Around the World series…and the kids like the Rebbe Mendel and Kids Speak books (glatt). Also, the Amazing Feats and World Records (b’datz Eidah Chareidis) are enjoyed in our home.

      “Avoid the Big Nate and Wimpy Kid “literature.” They’re a notch or two down intellectually from anything on any Jewish parent’s approved list, besides exemplifying rotten middos. Invasion of the Road Weenies and its pathetic sequel are equally traif and idiotic.

      “The early Hardy Boys mysteries were fun for our boys…”

      Our eldest also likes Hardy Boys, especially the original ones. He likes the graphic novel ones, too, but I’m not so hot on them…definitely kosher style, let alone any consideration of the literary quality (although I’m usually a sucker for graphic adaptations…the newest ones I like are the ones of Sherlock Holmes mysteries, and some others of old Twilight Zone episodes–all have been either kosher or kosher style). And he’s also getting into the old Jules Verne and H.G. Wells classics.

      Like

  3. Hey, everybody! I just got this message from Yael M.:

    Mr. Popper’s Penguins – Kosher. Very fun and the kids enjoyed.
    Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Kosher style. A bit of bad middos from some of the characters but pretty clean.
    James and the Giant Peach – Kosher style.

    A couple weeks back, Kayla G. contributed the following:

    The Laughing Dragon by Kenneth Mahood – Kosher (fantasy elements)

    And here are some recent books that have come out since that list was published:

    That is not my hat, by Jon Klassen – Kosher (because the no-goodnik gets it in the end)
    Extra Yarn – Kosher (possibly Glatt Kosher, if you’re okay with fantasy elements and girls in pants)
    Hereville: How Mirka Met a Meteorite – Kosher, for fantasy elements, but the Jewish stuff is spot on
    The Secret of the Stone Frog – Kosher, but weird (the kids liked it a lot, but it wasn’t my taste)
    Maya Makes a Mess – Kosher (and hilarious – BTW, pretty much every Toon Book I’ve read is Kosher except The Shark King, which is Kosher style)
    Sadie’s Sukkah Breakfast – Glatt Kosher
    Chu’s Day, by Neil Gaiman – Glatt Kosher (although not my favorite)

    Also, my daughter is really getting into the Nancy Clancy early readers (based on the Fancy Nancy character). All that I can think of off the top of my hat were Kosher.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s