Monsters & Miracles: A Journey Through Jewish Picture Books is a must-see at the gorgeous Skirball Cultural Center. The museum itself is breathtaking, and the exhibit is eye opening. Monsters & Miracles takes you on an educational journey while celebrating Jewish authors and illustrators. It’s a sneak peek into the artistic process behind picture books – all the way from the 16th century until the present. There are even a few illustrations from never-before-released books.

The adventure begins with a larger than life storybook and several illuminated Haggadot at the entryway to introduce the exhibit. The Hagaddah, or “the telling” in Hebrew, is read by families at the Seder. Rather than capturing visitors’ attention with tricky gadgets or flashy lights, the exhibit is true to its primary focus: illustrated literature. The beauty of the exhibit is its simplicity. There are over 130 stunning original illustrations on view, but nothing is too overly elaborate.

You don’t have to be Jewish in order to appreciate Monsters & Miracles. In fact, you will expand your knowledge of Jewish traditions and culture. Many of the works are overtly Jewish, like Mordicai Gerstein’s King Solomon and His Magic Ring. You will recognize other universally popular classics that many people don’t necessarily connect as being Jewish picture books. Shrek, Where the Wild Things Are and the Curious George series are all highlighted throughout the exhibit. Each of these three began as popular children’s books and expanded globally as movies, television programs or memorabilia. The final section of the exhibit is dedicated solely to the Jewish picture books that have crossed over into other forms of multimedia.

Monsters & Miracles aims its focus on the importance of bonding. Storytelling through picture books usually requires adults and children to share a story together. Visitors can do just that at the museum. In the corner of each room you will see a stack of books in which you will find the illustrations displayed in that particular area. Exhibit visitors are invited to take a seat and enjoy the picture book so they can associate the art with the actual stories.

Each room includes benches for readers to either sit and read on their own or put on headphones and follow along while listening to the audio books. Allison Janney, Mayim Bialik, Henry Winkler and Tony Kushner are among several celebrities you can hear reading classic stories like Lemony Snicket and Lisa Brown’s The Latke Who Couldn’t Stop Screaming: A Christmas Story.

There are a few other hands-on activities to participate in as well. You can design your own fish to add to the illustration from Mordicai Gerstein’s Jonah and the Two Great Fish. Or you can be a writer yourself with cards featuring popular story beginnings and then you can create your own story. You also have a chance to create your own monster!

Monsters & Miracles even offers a unique exit. Feel free to leave comment cards about the exhibit. Once you’ve filled one out, you can place it in the appropriate section of the card catalog they have set up for guests.

If you find your new favorite classic, there are books and related souvenirs at Audrey’s Museum Store. And while you’re there, you can also check out Hanoch Piven’s Making Faces: Playful Portraits of People You Know and Noah’s Ark, both on view at the Skirball as well.



Skirball Cultural Center is located at 2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles. For more information, visit skirball.org.