Diverse Children's Books · Jewish Children's Books · Picture books

Engineer Ari and the Rosh Hashanah Ride by Deborah Bodin Cohen, illustrated by Shahar Kober

With Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) approaching we were sent a wonderful new book from PJ Library. Engineer Ari and the Rosh Hashanah Ride written by Deborah Bodin Cohen, illustrated by Shahar Kober and published by Kar-Ben Publishing.

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Set in 1892 this book features the first ever train journey between Jaffa and Jerusalem. In this story, the driver chosen for this historic trip is Ari who, feeling very important, boasts to his friends Nathaniel and Jessie about his special journey.

As Ari drives through orange groves, farming land and steep hills he meets groups of people cheering his train as it makes its way across the country. As well as sending good wishes the people give Ari gifts to take to Jerusalem, gifts to celebrate Rosh Hashanah; baskets of apples, jars of honey, round loaves of challah and shofars. (Challah is the special bread that we eat on Jewish holidays and each week for Shabbat. A shofar is an instrument made from a ram’s horn that is blown during this festival).

However, the more people that Ari meets the more he regrets how his actions made his friends feel. Rosh Hashanah is a time when we look back at our actions over the last year and ask for forgiveness, this is called teshuvah. Ari plans to return to Jaffa to make teshuvah and ask his friends to forgive him.

Illustrated in muted colours this book transports you back in time with wonderful landscapes and scenery of this ancient land. My one-year-old loves the illustrations as there are so many big pictures of brightly coloured trains, he also likes the “Toot, Toot!” line which is repeated throughout the story. At the back of the book there is a short piece about the real train journey that the book is based on complete with a black and white photograph.

A great book to introduce Rosh Hashanah to children which also provides brilliant opportunities for talking about things we wish we hadn’t done and how we can change in the future. This is a great lesson for anyone and one that my eldest is just beginning to understand.

We felt inspired after reading about all the special things we have at Rosh Hashanah and decided to make some pictures of them. Printing with paints is a great activity and one that both my four-year-old and one-year-old can join in with. We made apple and honey print pictures, here’s what we needed:

  • Paints – red & green for the apples and yellow for the honey
  • Apples – cut in half from top to bottom so you can see the pips
  • Bubble wrap

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First we painted the apple halves and the bubble wrap before printing them on to paper.

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We made the bees with thumbprints in the yellow paint and drew the details on in pen once they were dry.

We stuck to red and green for the apples but really any colours would look good and my eldest had a go at mixing colours to make some colourful apple pictures.

We like to make new year cards for our relatives at Rosh Hashanah so once the paint had dried we cut the pictures out and made a collage for the cards. I helped my eldest to write Shana Tova in Hebrew on the front, a greeting to wish others a good year.

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We’d like to wish everyone a good and sweet new year, Shana Tova!

We’ve shared some baking ideas for Rosh Hashanah here and here and you can find out more about the fantastic PJ Library on their website here.

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