The Hardest Word Explores Being Sorry and Forgiveness (From PJ Library)
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The Hardest Word Explores Being Sorry and Forgiveness (From PJ Library)

Book Title: The Hardest Word: A Yom Kippur Story*

Author: Jacqueline Jules

Illustrator: Katherine Janus Kahn

Book Summary:

The Ziz, a clumsy but good-hearted bird of folklore, is always making mistakes. When he accidentally destroys a vegetable garden, he flies to Mount Sinai to ask G-d for advice.

Topic(s) Addressed:

This resource was created by the PJ Library at the PJ Library Educator's Center. Created for Family programs, this resource and its activities can be utilized, possibly with modifications, in a variety of children s learning environments.

Synopsis from the resource: "The Ziz, a clumsy but good-hearted bird of folklore, is always making mistakes. When he accidentally ruins a children’s vegetable garden, he instantly feels badly for the children and asks God for advice. Though the hardest word for the Ziz to say is “sorry,” he arrives to apologize for the garden damage with his own garden’s bounty to share with the children. Addressing the complexities of saying sorry, the book presents a powerful lesson on forgiveness, and teshuvah – turning around one’s behavior. The “turning” is naturally embedded in the apology. It’s not called out, spelled out, or anything else-out. It’s just the way it is."

Be Inspired:The ideas included are offered as starting points as you and your students explore, discover and live the lessons. Be sure to elicit and encourage student and parent participation, consistently reinforcing the value being addressed. Allow lessons to authentically develop and change based on engagement and interests.

Lesson Plan Components

For the educatorJewish Thought, Text, and Traditionsmore

Learn more about these values here: Forgiveness Educator Resource Page

Jewish every dayIncorporate Jewish Valuesmore

Materials and resourcesmore

Sharing The Storymore


Access resource here: The Hardest Word Resource Guide

Explore, Discover, and More Extension and Reinforcement Activitiesmore

Music Connectionsmore

List of All Songs


literature connectionsmore

TitleAuthorIllustratorBook Summary
Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse Kevin HenkesKevin HenkesLilly the mouse loves everything about school, especially her teacher, Mr. Slinger. One day Lilly comes to school with a new pair of movie-star sunglasses, three shiny quarters, and best of all, a purple plastic purse. She is so eager to show off her prized possessions to her classmates that she has a hard time listening, being considerate of others, and waiting until the appropriate time to share. After one too many disruptions, Mr. Slinger confiscates Lilly’s treasures for the rest of the day. Lilly becomes furious. What happens next speaks to issues of repentance and forgiveness in ways young children can readily connect with.
Tumford The Terrible Nancy TillmanNancy TillmanTumford isn’t really a terrible cat, but he has a way of finding mischief of one kind or another—tracking dirt into the house, knocking over breakable things, and disrupting fancy parties. But even though he feels bad, Tumford has trouble saying “I’m sorry.”
I Did It, I’m Sorry Caralyn BuehnerMark BuehnerThrough funny, multiple-choice questions to solve specific dilemmas, this book teaches young children basic moral values. (Note: Some situations are more sophisticated than others, so select carefully.)
I'm Sorry Sam McBratneyJennifer EachusTwo best friends find out that “I’m sorry” can be the hardest words to say, even to those you love.
Goldie Is Mad Margie Palatini Goldie is mad that her baby brother, Nicholas, drooled all over her favorite doll and she yells at him. She “hates” her brother. However, while sitting in time-out, Goldie ponders life without her brother and realizes she would miss his baby smell and his wonderful hugs. Goldie decides to forgive her brother and to say she’s sorry for yelling at him.
Beautiful Oops Barney Saltzberg This book presents a life lesson that all parents want their children to learn: It’s okay to make a mistake. In fact, hooray for mistakes! A mistake is an adventure in creativity, a portal of discovery.
Words Are Not for Hurting Elizabeth VerdickMarieka HeinlenWords contain much power and can be harmful and hurtful. Children learn how to use positive words to express negative emotions such as frustration and anger. The book’s activities and discussion starters teach children to apologize sincerely.
New Year at The Pier* Aptil WaylandStâephane JorischIzzy’s favorite part of Rosh Hashanah is Tashlich, a joyous ceremony in which people apologize for the mistakes they made in the previous year and thus clean the slate as the new year begins. But there is one mistake on Izzy’s “I’m sorry” list that he’s finding especially hard to say out loud.

Humor, touching moments between family and friends, and lots of information about the Jewish New Year are all combined in this lovely picture book for holiday sharing
Tashlisch at Turtle Rock* Susan Schnur Anna Schnur-Fishman and Alexandra Steele-MorganAnnie is excited about the Tashlich ceremony on the afternoon of Rosh Hashanah, when her family will walk to Turtle Rock Creek and throw crumbs into the water, as symbols of mistakes made the past year. As Annie leads her family through the woods stopping at favorite rocks, bridges, and waterfalls in her family’s own Tashlich ritual, they think about the good and bad things that happened during the past year, and make plans for a sweeter new year. This story focuses on ecological connections to the Tashlich ceremony and encourages families to customize the ritual and commune with nature at the New Year.
* PJ library Books
Lesson Contributors