First Rain: Children's Book Review and Discussion Guide

by Andrea T. Cannon

This week, we are featuring a number of blogs related to Israel, and especially the experiences of Reform/Progressive Jews visiting and living in Israel. Today, a WRJ Board member reviews a PJ Library children's book about exploring Israel and making aliyah

Title: First Rain
Author: Charlotte Herman
Illustrator: Kathryn Mitter
Publisher: Albert Whitman & Company
Intended for Ages: 4-5  years
Jewish Topics: Making Aliyah, Exploring Israel
Additional Topics Mentioned: The importance of nurturing our family


When Abby moves with her family to Israel, she misses her grandmother and remembers the fun they had with each other. Writing to each other helps, but it isn’t the same as spending time together. Abby grows more and more acclimated to Israel, but never stops thinking of her grandmother, especially while she waits for the first rain.


  • The importance of nurturing our family:  Set in today’s digital world, Abby and her grandmother can be in constant contact ― chatting by phone, sending emails, and exchanging photos online. This is in contrast to the way we communicated before the age of technology. In those days, when relatives moved far away, they would often have no means of staying in touch! In Jewish tradition, creating and nurturing family is highly valued. Use this book to remind yourself and your children about the importance of your family. Discuss ways to stay connected: phone calls, letters, birthday greetings, emails, Skype and photos sent via computer. Write a letter or draw a picture and mail to a family member that does not live near your home. Consider setting aside quiet time on Shabbat to share warm stories about your family, look at photos, and reminisce when you were a child and the memorable times you shared with your family.

Jewish Topics for Family Discussion

  • Making aliyah: Abby and her parents move to Israel, leaving loved ones― including Abby’s grandmother ― behind. For many Jews, residing in the Jewish homeland has special meaning: for them, this move can feel like “coming home” and is known as “making aliyah” in Hebrew. In this contemporary story, Abby’s family is clearly making aliyah to fulfill personal aspirations.
  • A prime example of aliyah: In the book of Genesis, Abraham and his family journeyed to live in the Land of Canaan. Immigrants to Israel (olim) have been arriving ever since, often in great numbers. There are many Israeli organizations that assist new residents, including many are children, to help them find housing and work, and to learn Hebrew.
  • Exploring Israel: Through Abby’s correspondence with her grandmother, we get a taste of the Jewish homeland. Abby learns and teaches her grandma Hebrew words, speaks about different Israeli customs, (like eating vegetables for breakfast and shopping at the shuk), and shares stories about trips to special places in Israel, such as the Western Wall and the Dead Sea. Is your family planning on visiting Israel? Check out these additional Israel-related resources on, which include tips about Israeli cuisine and for places to go with kids.

First Rain was mailed to 4-5 year old children in July 2010 as part of their PJ Library® subscription. PJ Library® provides the gift of free Jewish books and music to families raising Jewish children between the ages of 6 months and 8 years. To find out if subscriptions are available in your area, please visit the PJ Library®-URJ-WRJ Partnership page.

Originally posted at

Andrea T. Cannon is a WRJ Board member and a member of Congregation B'nai Israel Sisterhood in Boca Raton, FL.

Published: 7/16/2015

Categories: Affiliates, Arts & Culture, Israel & Global Affairs