Children's books: Opening pages

Perfect books to read with your children over Shabbat


In the Beginning: Illustrated Stories from the Old Testament (Chronicle Books, £30) is a monumental, metallic-and-neon-covered tome (no other word would do) by  Serge Bloch  and  Frédéric Boyer, translated by Cole Swensen. Familiar biblical incidents such as the creation and the flood are told simply but lyrically, as if in the explaining voice of a kindly relative, with drawings that are almost exuberant doodles, overlaid with colour washes and the occasional more structured illustration. Longer discussions of each episode are provided at the end. A treasury for the whole family to sit around on a rainy Shabbat afternoon.

Shylo, the tiny-but-tough rabbit with an eyepatch, is back, in The Royal Rabbits of London: Escape From the Tower (Royal Rabbits of London 2) by  Santa Montefiore and Simon Sebag Montefiore (Simon & Schuster, £10.99). In his first adventure, Shylo saved the Queen from embarrassment at the hands of Papa Ratzi and his gang of cyber-bullying journo-rodents. Now, the President of the United States is visiting and with POTUS come ROTUS – the rabbits of the US — flying in on Air Hutch One. Kate Hindley’s illustrations are nose-whifflingly cute.

Age five to nine, with jokes for parents.

Lila the koala loves to watch her family prepare for Shabbat. But she is too small to help with making eucalyptus candles or wine and her first attempts at baking are unpalatable. Eventually, she discovers the secret ingredient of perfect Koala Challahby Laura Gehl, Kar-Ben, £5.99). Under-sevens will sympathise with little Lila’s attempts to make her family sit up and notice her — and Maria Mola’s koala illustrations are adorable (especially the father and sister — there is something about a koala wearing glasses). Not sure about Lila’s secret ingredient, though. Parents should stress that eucalyptus is not human food.

Hanna lives in the Jewish community of 12th-century York. Although only 11, she is adept at helping her grandfather heal people, even with operations. She is also fascinated by magic but these are dangerous times to be dabbling, with the new king, Richard, on the throne and mobs on the streets attacking Jews and torching their homes. Out of the Fire by  Millie Pearson (Hurstbourne Publishing, £6.99) culminates in the events at Clifford’s Tower. Pearson excels at both day-to-day detail and wide historical drama. Age 12 up.

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