By SYBIL KAPLANThe Man Who Flies With Birds
By Carole Garbuny Vogel and Yossi Leshem
64 pages; $18.95
Ages 10 and up
Dr. Yossi Leshem is an internationally known ornithologist who lives at the Har Gilo field center, near Jerusalem. Carole Vogel writes high-interest nonfiction books for young readers and lives in Lexington, Massachusetts.
This book begins with the biography of the Haifa-born Leshem, whose mother instilled a love of nature in him. After high school and the army, Leshem studied zoology and genetics at the Hebrew University, then went to work for the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel.
This led him to related areas such as mechanics of bird flight, a major bird watching project, a flight safety program and more.
"One of Yossi's chief goals is to build public awareness about birds and nature conservation," and there now exists an International Center for the Study of Bird Migration, with Leshem as director.
Leshem was instrumental in the selection of the hoopoe as Israel's national bird in 2008. He has also set up 10 bird-watching centers in Israel to see the 280 species of birds which migrate over the country and the 250 species which live here.
You don't have to be a bird lover to find this book fascinating. More than 60 color photographs and numerous maps and diagrams enhance the reading. Pre-teens, teens and adults who never pondered the importance of safe air travel when there are birds, preventing aircraft accidents, and in general keeping people, aircraft and birds safe will enjoy this book.
The Disappearing Dowry
By Libi Astaire
Zahav Press (Targum)
218 pages; $9.99
This book is the first in a new series of historical mysteries by the Israeli publisher Targum. Author Libi Astaire calls her series, set in London in the 1800s, a kind of "Jane Austen meets Sherlock Holmes."
The narrator, who sets the tone of the book and the series, is a young Jewish woman named Rebecca Lyon. The plot revolves around the Lyon family - father, Samuel who owns a clock-making shop; his wife, Rose; their marriageable daughter, Hannah; and three younger siblings plus Rebecca, the narrator.
Just as the family has arranged the marriage of Hannah, Lyon's bank goes bankrupt and someone steals a large sum of money he had kept hidden in his shop.
Along the way, we are introduced to Ezra Melamed, a wealthy benefactor of the Jewish community, a widower with time on his hands and a very keen sense of curiosity who enjoys playing detective. Melamed undertakes to look for clues on the robbery, both to restore the money to its rightful owner and to prevent the loss of the dowry and breaking of the engagement.
All of the details of Jewish life in London are woven into the plot as narrated Jane Austen-like by Rebecca.
Pre-teens and teens (and their parents too) will enjoy a quick-paced, absorbing read.
Libi Astaire is originally from Prairie Village, Kansas; she now lives in Jerusalem. She writes for Mishpaha, a weekly religious magazine, and is awaiting the publication of a novel, Terra Incogita, which will be published in the fall by Targum, about descendants of anusim from Spain.
By Sylvie Weil
Jewish Publication Society
164 pages; $14
For ages 9-12
Five years ago, Sylvie Weil, a French-born author and university French literature teacher, wrote My Guardian Angel, the story of Elvina, the 12-year-old granddaughter of the renowned 11th-century French Bible and Talmud commentator Rashi. Elvina loves to read and is skilled in the art of healing in Troyes, when the Crusaders rage through her town.
Now Weil has added the sequel young-adult book to the genre of "faction," of real women. In this case, Elvina is 14 years old. She befriends the daughter of a German family, who has moved to Troyes and were forced to convert by the Crusaders.
The young woman's cousin who has seen his family murdered by the Crusaders and is mentally disturbed steals someone's mirror to "see" the past. Elvina tries to help by bringing him her mirror.
This work gives a wonderfully detailed picture of medieval European Jews and their day-to-day lives.
Young adults (and adults as well) will find this work intriguing.
Toby Belfer Learns About Heroes and Martyrs
By Gloria Teles Pushker and Mel Tarman
128 pages; $12.95
For ages 9-12
This is Gloria Teles Pushker's sixth book about Toby Belfer, a truly engaging young woman (A Belfer Bar Mitzvah, Toby Belfer Never Had a Christmas Tree, Toby Belfer's Seder, Toby Belfer and the High Holy Days and Toby Belfer Visits Ellis Island).
What is so special about Toby, who is now in fifth grade, is that like her author, she's the only Jewish child in a Louisiana town.
Pushker completed her college education as an adult and taught children's literature at a college. She is working on a doctorate, has seven grandchildren and is a member of the National Association for the Preservation and Perpetuation of Storytelling.
In this work, she was joined by Mel Tarman, now retired, formerly an executive, entrepreneur and educator, who lives in Texas.
Toby, her best friend, Donna, and their fifth-grade class take a spring break trip to Israel. Their last visit is to Yad Vashem. Somehow the part that makes the biggest impact on Toby is the Avenue of the Righteous Among the Nations. Toby decides to make a record of some Righteous Gentiles and this forms the basis of the book as she records the stories of 26 gentiles.
When she returns to Louisiana, Toby is asked to speak about her Israel experience at her synagogue; she spends the summer learning more about Righteous Gentiles, and then her family and Donna make a trip to Whitwell, Tennessee, and the Paperclip Museum created by the Christians in that community in 1998 to represent the 11 million people killed by the Nazis.
Emile Henriquez, a New Orleans cartoonist, children's book illustrator, graphic designer and calligrapher, created the pen-and-ink illustrations of the heroes and heroines.
This is a book all middle-school readers (and their parents) ought to read.
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