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Children’s Book Review – Gracie Brings Back Bubbe’s Smile



Written by Jane Sutton

Illustrated by Debby Rahmalia

(Albert Whitman & Co.; $17.99, Ages 4-8)


GracieB rings Back Bubbes Smile cover girl with grandma


Author Jane Sutton and illustrator Debby Rahmalia’s picture book, Gracie Brings Back Bubbe’s Smile, was easy to enjoy. It brought me back to my childhood as I recalled all the Yiddish words my parents and other relatives used when I was growing up. I knew conversations were about money when I heard them use the word gelt. When kinder was mentioned, they were talking about me, my brother or my cousins. Yet this book is so much more than a book to introduce Yiddish to young readers. It’s a sweet, thoughtful story about how Gracie comes up with a way to help her grieving Bubbe (grandma) following her Zayde’s (grandfather) death.

Rather than come right out and tell Bubbe what she’s doing, Gracie uses her genuine curiosity to take her grandmother’s mind off her husband’s death by having her focus on something else. What a mature approach!

Gracie Brings Back Bubbe's Smile int1 gracie and grandma jogging
Interior spread from Gracie Brings Back Bubbe’s Smile written by Jane Sutton and illustrated by Debby Rahmalia, Albert Whitman & Co. ©2022.


Gracie may not have been grieving to the extent that her Bubbe was, but she still felt the loss. Her late Zayde had taught her many things and she missed spending time with him. And she could not help but notice how sad Bubbe was. So when Bubbe told her she didn’t feel like drawing a picture together and called her Bubala, recalling how  “Zayde and I loved using Yiddish words together,” Gracie grew interested in finding out more.


Gracie Brings Back Bubbe's Smile int2 gracie and grandma laughing together
Interior spread from Gracie Brings Back Bubbe’s Smile written by Jane Sutton and illustrated by Debby Rahmalia, Albert Whitman & Co. ©2022.


By asking Bubbe to teach her Yiddish words, Gracie is able to help her grieving grandmother engage and at the same time continue doing something meaningful. They can spend time together as Bubbe shares more Yiddish words and their meanings while keeping the memory of Zayde alive. In the end, not only does Gracie bring back Bubbe’s smile, but she also bonds with her in joyful new ways that heal them both. Sutton’s tenderly written multigenerational story of bereavement and healing is treated with care in Rahmalia’s cheerful illustrations that depict Bubbe’s loving relationship with her granddaughter. With its unique Yiddish angle, this picture book is a thoughtful, educational, and accessible read for children processing a loss.

  • Reviewed by Ronna Mandel
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Oy! Such an Adorable Book!



Written by Laurel Snyder

Illustrated by Tiphanie Beeke


Reviewed by Lindy Michaels of BookStar on Ventura Blvd. in Studio City, CA.

Oy vey! Who can argue that Yiddish is not a fun language to speak out loud, even for those of a… non Jewish persuasion? Now, everyone, say it together, please…

“Loads of words from which to choose

Perfect for a preschool SCHMOOZE.”

For those not in the know, that means, what else, a little talk! How about this one…

“Dolly hauling, crawling, stepping.

Babies do get tired of SCHLEPPING.”

We got KIBITZ: joke around

We got KLUTZ: not particularly graceful

We got NOSH: now everyone knows that’s a little something to eat. A nice sour

pickle, maybe?

“From the youngest MAMALEH, to the oldest BUBBE and ZAIDEH,

no one’s ever too young… or too old to learn a BISSEL Yiddish!”

So enjoy this delightful, colorful, little board book with the KINDERS, nu? And always feel free to insert a little Yiddish into any conversation! It will make folks think you’re actually bi-lingual! Shalom!!

lindymichaelspicThe very versatile Lindy Michaels aims to inspire young minds through children’s literature. Lindy owned L.A.’s first children’s bookshop, OF BOOKS AND SUCH (1972-1987) where she did storytelling, taught drama to children, had art and poetry contests and the like. According to Lindy, “It was truly a ‘land of enchantment.” She also spent years lecturing on realism in children’s literature at colleges in the state. For close to five years Lindy has worked for Studio City Barnes and Noble (BookStar) in the children’s section and does storytelling every Saturday at 10:30 a.m.

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A Biseleh (a little) Bit of Yiddish and Comedy Stars

9781439152829Yiddish for Babies, A Language Primer for Your Little Pitsel,

written and illustrated by Janet Perr (Simon & Schuster, $12.99, all ages) puts this language that is related to German and spoken by Ashkenazi Jews at your fingertips. Maybe you’ve heard some Yiddish words and expressions or perhaps you’ve even used them. Schlep(p), for example, a Yiddish word I use all the time which means to carry or to lug, as in I schlepped this heavy backpack around all day and now my shoulders hurt, has become part of the American lexicon.

When I was a kid and my parents spoke Yiddish in hushed tones so that my brother and I couldn’t hear, I would often catch snippets of conversation and if the word gelt came up, I knew they were speaking about money issues. Now with this humorous visual primer, parents and children alike can learn this rich language and begin using it immediately.

Bubbe – grandmother

Baby has so much fun when her bubbe comes to visit.

If the pictures don’t make you laugh, the sentences surely will!

Ferklempt (emotional, ready to cry), made famous by comedian Mike Meyers on Saturday Night Live, is demonstrated with a photo of a tired baby wiping its eyes.

It’s naptime and baby’s getting a little ferklempt.

Kvelling, a word my parents said frequently at bar mitzvahs, graduations and weddings means proud, bursting with joy.

Baby made in the potty, and mommy is kvelling.

Oy, it’s obvious I could go on and on about all the terrific Yiddish words included, the fab and funny photos and the apt descriptions, but I think you’ve got my drift so zai gezunt (be well, good-bye)!

978-0-8225-9942-5_medJewish Comedy Stars: Class to Cutting Edge

by Norman H. Finkelstein (Kar-Ben, $9.99, ages 11 and up)

You’ve heard the the line: “Doctor, it hurts when I do this.”

“Don’t do that.”

Kids today may be familiar with Jon Stewart, Adam Sandler, Sarah Silverman and Ben Stiller, but we need to jump back in time to the roots of comedy “shtick” to really understand how it’s evolved.

Tying into the book review above, it’s hard to talk about Yiddish and not bring up Jewish comedians going back almost a century. Jewish comedians have had a lasting impact on the entertainment industry and this easy-to-read primer on who’s who from the 20th through 21st centuries will introduce kids to a few a names they might not know and even more that they do. In over 40 mini biographies, author Finkelstein, explores the backgrounds of such luminaries as Fanny Brice, Molly Picon, Jack Benny, Sid Caesar, Milton Berle +and so many more.

Kids will get a kick from reading about The Three Stooges’ slapstick humor to the original shock jock Lenny Bruce as well as the pre-Borat days of Sasha Baron Cohen (aka Ali G.). From Vaudeville, to Broadway and Film, TV to Comedy Central, the community of Jewish comedians is as rich and diverse as the jokes and stories they tell.

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