Book review: A Heart Just Like My Mother’s, by Lela Nargi, illustrated by Valeria Cis

Nargi, Lela. A Heart Just Like My Mother’s. Illustrated by Valeria Cis. Kar-Ben Publishing, 2018. $17.99. ISBN 9781512420982. Unpaged. Ages 4-8. P6 Q7

Anna’s family celebrates many occasions, from Rosh Hashanah to the last day of school. Whenever they have a special occasion, they visit Mr. Reuben’s Market. People tell Anna how creative her mother was when she was younger and how she made people smile. Anna feels discouraged because she wants to be like her mother but doesn’t feel like she is. When Anna has compassion for a hungry man and saves up money so he can have bagels when he is hungry, she realizes this is what makes her just like her mother. While most of the illustrations are in color, when the characters think back to the past, their memories are illustrated in black and white. This contrast helps the reader know what is in the present and what is in the past. This book, rich in Jewish culture, celebrates family and the importance of passing down traditions and how traditions can add to our lives and to the lives of those around us.

Verdict: Tzedakah, meaning charity or righteousness, is an act of giving to someone in need. To give without any expectation or expectation of thanks is the highest form of Tzedakah. Children will benefit from hearing how Anna had compassion for a man in need. This book can stimulate conversation on how we can help others without expecting anything back in return. It can also be used in teaching about Jewish culture.

March 2018 review by Tami Harris.

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