This evening at sundown marks the beginning of the Jewish observance of Rosh Hashanah: the Feast of Trumpets, the first of the High Holy Days, an annual celebration of God’s good work of creation, and the start of the Jewish New Year.

What better time could there be for us for highlight a few of our wide-ranging Jewish interest books for young readers?

Click through to browse the complete collection on our website, or read on to discover five great books . . .

Adam and Eve and the Garden of Eden

Adam and Eve and the Garden of Eden

Adam and Eve and the Garden of Eden
Jane Ray

At the very beginning of the world the earth was a dry and dusty place, where nothing could live and nothing could grow.
So God made a mist which watered the ground all over.
Then with his great hands, he formed the first man out of the clay of the newly watered earth.

Jane Ray’s beautiful version of the familiar story takes into account creation myths the world over. The story of Adam and Eve is powerful because it is the story of all children growing up and going out into the world. It also reminds readers of all ages of the need to live in harmony with the earth.

“Ray infuses her picture-book vision with a tone of openness and universality befitting a story that encompasses all the peoples and living things of the world. . . . Ray’s intricate and elegant paintings help set this volume apart.”
— Publishers Weekly (starred review)

Psalms for Young Children

Psalms for Young Children

Psalms for Young Children
Written by Marie-Hélène Delval
Illustrated by Arno

Winner of the 2008 Theologos Award for Best Children’s Book, given by the Association of Theological Booksellers.

The Psalms describe a whole range of emotions, from joy and wonder to sadness and regret. This collection of Psalms, paraphrased for young readers, uses simple yet powerful imagery to help children express their feelings.

“It’s worth the price of admission to this enchanting book for young children to have access to the gorgeous illustrations in Psalms for Young Children. They’re quite unusual and original, fitting beautifully with the paraphrased Psalms written so that even the very young can understand them.”
CBA Retailers & Resources

Joseph

Joseph

Joseph
Brian Wildsmith

The story of Joseph and his coat of many colors is a favorite Bible story — full of dramatic events and enduring lessons in love and faith.

In this spectacular retelling, Brian Wildsmith has created sweeping illustrations rich with brilliant colors and fascinating details, vividly depicting the vast deserts and the lavish architecture of ancient Egypt. With great heart and great imagination, Wildsmith brings the story of Joseph to life for a new generation of readers.

“A biblical children’s book that tells its story without belaboring its lessons is always pleasant to find, and Brian Wildsmith’s Joseph is an outstanding example. Its colorfully detailed paintings of ancient Egypt manage to be imaginative and realistic at the same time. . . The tale has never been more beautifully presented.”
Parade Magazine

Meet at the Ark at Eight

Meet at the Ark at Eight

Meet at the Ark at Eight
Written by Ulrich Hub
Illustrated by Jörg Mühle

Winner of the 2012 National Jewish Book Award for Children’s and Young Adult Literature, given by the Jewish Book Council.

News reaches a pair of penguins that a great flood is coming to destroy the earth — and that they are the only two penguins who have been chosen to board Noah’s Ark. They decide, however, to smuggle their friend aboard in a suitcase, and a wild forty-day journey ensues.

This creative twist on the classic biblical tale encourages readers to ask questions about God, though it never presumes that the answers will be quick and easy. Ulrich Hub’s humorous, yet thought-provoking retelling of this well-known Bible story is complemented by Jörg Mühle’s witty illustrations.

Read more about this book here on EerdWord.

Masada

Masada

Masada: The Last Fortress
Gloria D. Miklowitz

Winner of the Sugarman Family’s Award for Jewish Children’s Literature.

In the year 72 C.E., after a four-year war between Rome and Judea, only one fortress remains to be taken: Masada, high above the Dead Sea in what is now Israel. Two years later, the commander of the famous Roman Tenth Legion, Flavius Silva, marches toward Masada to capture or kill the 960 Jewish zealots who hold it.

In this eloquent and powerful novel, we meet 17-year-old Simon ben Eleazar, son of the Jewish leader of Masada. Apprenticed too Masada’s only physician, Simon learns to help victims of the enemy’s onslaught as he struggles with his love for Deborah, the intended of his best friend, and with the painful decision he must ultimately make.

“Miklowitz personalizes history in this account of the fall of Masada as seen through the eyes of a young Jewish man helping to hold the fort, and of the Roman commander who is trying to foil the Jews’ last stand. . . The historical facts, a blend of the everyday and the dramatic, show how people can find hope, beauty, and even love in the midst of the most dire of circumstances — and how history is made up of real people, not so different from those reading about it. A powerful offering.”
Booklist

Click to browse the rest of our featured collection of Jewish interest books for young readers. 

 

He’s a brilliant scholar. A respected church leader. A best-selling author.

N. T. Wright is . . . well, according to Christianity Today’s April cover story (“Surprised by N. T. Wright“):

People who are asked to write about N. T. Wright may find they quickly run out of superlatives. He is the most prolific biblical scholar in a generation. Some say he is the most important apologist for the Christian faith since C. S. Lewis. He has written the most extensive series of popular commentaries on the New Testament since William Barclay. And, in case three careers sound like too few, he is also a church leader, having served as Bishop of Durham, England, before his current teaching post at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland.

But perhaps the most significant praise of all: When Wright speaks, preaches, or writes, folks say they see Jesus, and lives are transformed.

We at Eerdmans have enjoyed a long friendship and fruitful publishing partnership with Wright that, back in the 1990s, resulted in a number of excellent books — modern classics that have all been republished this summer in fresh new editions.

To celebrate the arrival of these beautiful new books in our warehouse, we’ll be giving away an entire set of them this week here on EerdWord.

Enter now for your chance to win seven N. T. Wright classics from Eerdmans:

Click to enter our giveaway now.

Click to enter our giveaway now.

Contest Details

To enter, click through to our Rafflecopter giveaway page. You’ll have the option of logging in with Facebook or email; you can then choose from several possible methods of entry. You may use multiple entry methods to increase your odds of winning, and Twitter users may earn additional entries by tweeting about the giveaway each day between now and September 25. 

You must be 18 years or older and a legal resident of the United States to enter. 

The entry period for the giveaway begins at 10:00 a.m. Tuesday, September 23, 2014, and ends at 11:59 p.m. Thursday, September 25. One winner will be selected at random and notified by email by the end of business Friday, September 26.

Rachel Bomberger

Rachel Bomberger

Rachel Bomberger is EerdWord editor for Eerdmans. She loves reading, writing, and braiding her daughters’ hair (when they’ll let her).*

* * *

I’ll confess: at first, I just didn’t get it. I’m a little naïve, I suppose.

There I was, bent over a stack of illustrated printouts, cramming for an EBYR acquisitions meeting and trying hard to come up with something insightful to say about this little enigma of a book — Anna’s Heaven — from Stian Hole.

It was beautiful. No doubt about that. Stunning, even.

It was utterly original – yes, that too. Hole’s work always is, speckled as it so often is with random Elvis cameos and hedgehogs, floating mailboxes, skateboards, and chrysanthemums in the loveliest of places.

Even so, somehow, the point of story managed to elude me. At least at first.

“You can spell kayak forward or backward and it’s the same word,” Anna says. “Like redder.”

“And Anna,” Dad says. “Hurry up now or we’ll be late.”

Even though she is looking away, Anna notices that her father is restless. She can feel it in the air, in the grass, in the scar on her knee, in the mole on her neck, and in every hair on her head. Anna knows that her dad gets restless when he is not looking forward to something.

EER-AnnaHeaven-IntPgs-2

Then, suddenly, everything came into focus, and the tears started to stream down my cheeks.

It’s her mom. They’re going . . . the church bells . . . it’s a funeral.

“Today there’s someone in the sky sending down nails. That’s not right, is it?” Dad says.

Once I finally see it, I can’t stop seeing it everywhere. Anna’s dead mother haunts every page of this book, and it’s heartbreaking and breathtaking all at once.

When I was a kid, there were three things I feared above all:

  1. Snakes.
  2. Going blind.
  3. Losing my mother.

I’m all grown up now, and my list of big fears has grown with me, in intensity, if not in number:

  1. Snakes. (Some things never change.)
  2. Losing my children.
  3. Leaving my children motherless.

AnnasHeaven3 (2)

Hole’s tackled tough topics before — starting school, peer pressure, young love, aging relatives — but Anna’s Heaven goes above and beyond them all in its courage and candor.

There’s nothing solid or tangible about life after death in Hole’s almost whimsical fantasy. Anna’s heaven is not for real. It doesn’t pretend to be. There are no easy answers here, no certainties.

Answers and certainties aren’t the point, though. The path to peace for Anna and her father lies through wondering, through imagining, and through asking tough questions together.

“Why can’t he who knows everything, who can pull and push and turn over clouds and waves and planets — why can’t he invent something to turn bad into good?” Anna says.

“God should hang up a mailbox for people to send questions and complaints,” Dad answers.

You might disagree with me here, but I think this is the right way, the best way, to deal with death in a children’s picture book: not by ladling out empty answers, but simply by leaving open space for all the questions.

Children are full of questions about everything they see, hear, or feel. Many of them are especially curious about death. Each of mine has gone through a period of deep fascination with the subject, peppering me with questions that leave me feeling ill equipped and off balance.

What really happens to people when they die? they ask. Where do they go? And most heartrending of all: Why?

I have so few good answers to give them, and even the handful I can muster come only from a faith not seen: our bodies rest and wait in the earth; our souls rest and wait with the Lord. Why? I don’t know. Because this old world is broken, I guess.

That’s it. That’s all I’ve got, and it scares me that I can’t tell them more.

If only . . .

“If only Mom could come back and braid my hair,” Anna sighs.

“Ah, if only she could,” Dad says.

“One day while Mom was brushing her hair in front of the mirror, she said everything had two sides.” Anna gives that some thought. “Do you think there’s anything on the other side of the mirror?”

“I don’t know, Anna, my sweet,” Dad says, squeezing his eyes shut.

Every time I revisit Anna’s Heaven, I have to stop often and squeeze my wet eyes shut as I read — but it’s a good, rich sadness. A beautiful sadness.

EER-AnnaHeaven-IntPgs-1

Click to order Anna’s Heaven by Stian Hole. 

* Editor’s note: Over time, we at EerdWord have come to realize that all of our EerdWord reviews — written by Laura Bardolph Hubers, Jacob Thielman, Rachel Bomberger, and others of your favorite Eerdfolk — have two things in common:

1. They’re generally great reads.

2. They’re absolutely always 100% positive.

There are several very good reasons for #2. We do genuinely love the books we choose to write about, and we also like to offer unwavering public support for our books and authors. (If, as an author, you can’t count on your publisher to say nice things about your books online, you might need to find a new publisher.) 

Even so, the fact that we’ve never published a negative — or even a mildly ambivalent — “review” on EerdWord has occasionally left us feeling uncertain about our choice of labels. 

To ease our minds, we’re rebranding today’s post (along with all future blog-posts-formerly-known-as-EerdWord-reviews) a Staff Pick. It’s not quite as catchy, perhaps, but it is a fair bit more accurate, and that’s something.

Welcome once again to Eerdmans All Over, a Friday roundup of all the Eerdmans-related news, reviews, interviews, and other interesting online content we can gather in a given week.

New Releases

The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus
Jen Bryant and Melissa Sweet

Christian Scholarship in the Twenty-First Century: Prospects and Perils
Thomas M. Crisp, Steve L. Porter, Gregg A. Ten Elshof

God in the Dock: Essays on Theology and Ethics
New Edition
C. S. Lewis

Poetic Heroes: Literary Commemorations of Warriors and Warrior Culture in the Early Biblical World
Mark S. Smith

 

News from Eerdmans . . .

  • We are proud and excited to announce the launch of the pilot episode of our sparkly new EBYR Vlog!
  • Want to work for Eerdmans? We’re hiring! Check out our newly posted Field Sales Manager position.

. . . and elsewhere.

Have we missed any news, reviews, or other online miscellany dealing with Eerdmans or EBYR books or authors from the last week? Please let us know in the comments. You also can post items on our Facebook timeline, mention us on Twitter (@eerdmansbooks or @ebyrbooks), or write to us directly: webmaster@eerdmans.com.

 

The following excerpt comes from Distance in Preaching: Room to Speak, Space to Listen by Michael A. Brothers. 

* * *

Distance in Preaching

Distance in Preaching

“I feel crowded.”

This was the response by a young woman to a sermon zealously preached in my recent seminary course entitled “Preaching the Sermon.” Her comment was not an unusual one; imilar sermon responses throughout the term included these:

“I felt emotionally manipulated.”

“I don’t like it when preachers say, ‘Now I know what you’re think­ing. . . .’ You don’t know what I’m thinking!”

You were into the [biblical] story, but I really don’t know it.”

“There was no place for a differing opinion.”

“Let me make my own decisions.”

“It was too much; I had to tune you out.”

“The bigger you got, the smaller I felt.”

“I kept backing up, but you kept moving forward.”

One student’s astute critique expressed the overall ethos of classroom lis­tening: “There was no room for me in the sermon.” This ethos that can be described as distance.

Distance in preaching can be described as a “psychic” separation, hold­ing hearers “at bay,” keeping them from “direct participation” in a biblical text via the sermon’s form, technique, style, and delivery. Distance can be contrasted with “nearness,” or “participation,” which draws the hearer into the sermon. This functional definition of distance involves the psy­chic, aesthetic, spatial, and critical relationship between the sermon and the hearer. Distance in the sermon is created by the posture of the hearer, the structure and content of the sermon, the form, content, and style of the biblical text, and the role of the preacher with respect to individual hearers and the community.

In the last decade I have noticed a dramatic change in how sermons are listened to and heard in the classroom. Much of this shift can be described as a change of distance between the hearers and the sermon, between the hearers and the preacher, and between the hearers and the biblical text. My interest in distance in preaching arose from classroom settings toward the end of the last century. Having taught preaching and speech perfor­mance in both seminary and university settings, I was curious about the dramatic differences between the seminarians’ discussions of distance and those of university students. In the preaching classroom in seminary, stu­dent responses to sermons went like this: “You had me until the part. . . .” “You seemed distant.” “Reach out and talk to us.” “You never talked to me directly.” “I felt separated from you.” “Convince me!” “Draw me in.” “I want you to overwhelm me!” By contrast, responses to performances of literature in speech performance classrooms at the university went like this: “You were too close for comfort; you forced me to back away.” “You overpowered the poem with your voice and gestures.” “Let the piece speak for itself.” “Don’t complete the story for us; let us do that ourselves.” In both the university and seminary settings, students viewed the listeners’ participation as a positive element in the presentations by their peers, and they encouraged its use through elements of style and delivery. In a strik­ing contrast, students of speech performance considered distance a nec­essary component of performance, something that allowed the audience to experience the work and not just the performer, whereas seminarians considered distance an obstacle between the preacher and the congrega­tion — something that kept hearers from “drawing close to God’s Word.”

In recent years I have become aware of a change in sermon responses in courses that emphasize both sermon construction and preaching “live” in front of the class. Comments expressing a desire to be drawn in, con­vinced, and overwhelmed have all but disappeared. Taking their place are requests calling for “room” in the preached sermon for the hearers’ own interpretations and experiences, and calling for a respect for the distance, or “space,” within which hearers can have their own responses and make their own decisions.

This change in the hearers’ response to preaching, and the differences between the contexts of preaching and speech performance, prompted me to investigate in this book distance in the disciplines of aesthetics, per­formance studies, and homiletics. My aim is to contribute to a greater understanding of distance in the field of homiletics; equip teachers and students of preaching to return to the classroom with an informed ability to evaluate its function in sermon form, style, and delivery; and encourage preachers to acquire greater understanding and skill in the use of distance as they create and preach sermons. My hope is that this understanding, combined with ability, may provide today’s preacher with room to speak the gospel, and may provide today’s hearer with space within which to hear the gospel.

Click to order Michael A. Brothers’s Distance in Preaching: Room to Speak, Space to Listen.

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