Joyful Song

Books

“Shabbat is the best day of the week and today is the best best day of all.” So begins Joyful Song, a cheerful contemporary story celebrating Jewish naming traditions, from the award-winning team of Lesléa Newman and Susan Gal.  

Zachary, the story’s narrator, is a new big brother—and especially proud to be pushing the carriage holding his new baby sister as he and both of his moms make their way to the synagogue. As they walk through their neighborhood, the family greets neighbors curious about the new baby. Of course, everyone wants to know her name. 

But although the baby has been called by cute nicknames such as “Little Babka,” “Snuggle Bunny” and “Shayneh Maideleh” (which means “beautiful girl”), Zachary is careful to explain that her real name will be announced on that very day, at her naming ceremony. 

Before long, friends join in to accompany the family in a happy parade. At the synagogue, Zachary steps up to play a leading role, reciting the words he has been practicing to get right. And just as the baby opens her eyes and stretches her hands out to him, he announces that she will be called Aliza Shira, which means “joyful song.” After a community lunch in the social hall, the family hurries home, where their two little dogs greet them with excited barking. 

Gal’s bright, exuberant palate is highlighted by brilliant sunshiny golds and luscious coral and orange shades. The colorful, vibrant art brings a natural warmth to the array of diverse characters depicted throughout. In an author’s note, Newman provides information about naming ceremonies and traditions around the choice of names, sharing that she was named for her grandfather who died just months before she was born. Hebrew translations are provided for several names as well. 

A final question in this heartwarming book opens the door to further conversations for all kinds of families: “Everybody’s name has an interesting story. What’s the story of yours?” 

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