cover image Bar Mitzvah: A Jewish Boy's Coming of Age

Bar Mitzvah: A Jewish Boy's Coming of Age

Eric A. Kimmel. Viking Children's Books, $15 (160pp) ISBN 978-0-670-85540-7

Kimmel (Days of Awe) unites his considerable storytelling gifts with affectionate understanding of the religious and cultural aspects of the bar mitzvah to produce a little something for everyone. Children with no previous exposure to Jewish beliefs and rituals will find the explanations here both clear and enticing, respectful of different religious traditions. Speaking in friendly, measured tones, Kimmel also accommodates Jewish readers from a variety of backgrounds, from Reform to Orthodox. He emphasizes the personal signficance of the ceremony by interpolating short first-person accounts of different men's and boys' bar mitvahs--not all of these are joyous, but each is powerful and distinct (an octagenarian describes how he had a second bar mitvah 67 years after his first; another man recounts the dramatic events of his 13th birthday in 1943, spent with Jewish partisans in the forests of Poland; a third recalls that his bar mitzvah was ``vulgar, crass, thoroughly unspiritual''--``and yet... something happened in spite of all that''). Plenty of quick illustrative stories and legends about wise rabbis and European Jewry contribute to the festivities. Illustrations not seen by PW. Ages 11-13. (Jan.)