A Queen to the Rescue: The Story of Henrietta Szold, Founder of Hadassah

By Nancy Churnin; illustrated by Yevgenia Nayberg

Creston Books, 2021. (Ages 8-13)

What a breath of fresh air! A Queen to the Rescue shows us the true story of an older woman making a difference. It’s so important that young readers see examples of older adults in the role of helper.

“Henrietta Szold provides a model for social justice, how to work for it, no matter the obstacles. Her determination and spirit remain an inspiration to women all over the world.” (Creston Books)

Henrietta founded the Jewish women’s social justice organization, Hadassah, in 1912. She was determined to offer emergency medical care to mothers and children in Palestine. Since childhood she’d been inspired by the brave 4th century Jewish Queen Esther. Hadassah is the Hebrew name for Esther.

Older adults volunteering or advocating for change are rarely portrayed in picture books. Yet the world is filled with olders helping others—often sharing skills learned over many years. Olders give millions of hours for no pay—rebuilding homes after an earthquake for example, or teaching young children to read. They also provide support and love and mentoring within their families.

Far too often in picture books the main character, a child, is shown helping an older person in need—a sad, grumpy, lonely or ill older person. Yes, on occasion olders need us, and there is no shame in that. But we are all interdependent—sometimes we’re the ones who need a little help and sometimes we’re the helpers. No matter how old we are.


Here are my Top Ten Reasons I recommend A Queen to the Rescue: The Story of Henrietta Szold, Founder of Hadassah:

  1. Henrietta Szold saw great needs in the Jewish people both in America and abroad, and over her lifetime she never looked away. Instead she took action.


  1. I’m so glad the author shares Henrietta was a strong single woman in the latter 1800’s when “women couldn’t vote, own a business, be doctors or lawyers.” Inspiration for girls!


  1. When Henrietta created Hadassah she insisted the charity “serve all in need, regardless of race, ethnicity or nationality. (In 2005 Hadassah was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.)

  1. A timeline in the back matter helps cement in readers minds that Henrietta’s astounding contributions occurred far into adulthood and as an older adult.
  2. At age 73 she pulled up roots in America and moved to Palestine to help rescue 11,000 Jewish children from the Nazis terrorizing Europe.

6. Henrietta braved a journey to Germany as a Jew when the Jewish people were being arrested, beaten, and killed.

  1. She met secretly with frightened parents, and fought for visas and boats to help Jewish children to safety.


  1. Earlier in her life as a teacher in America, Henrietta’s concern was for new Jewish immigrants fleeing persecution in Poland and Russia. She opened the very first night school for adults to learn English after they finished work.


  1. Extensive back matter further educates readers on Henrietta’s many accomplishments. We also learn more about Queen Esther and the Jewish holiday Purim which celebrates the courage of the 4th century Jewish Queen.

  1. Last but not least, author Nancy Churnin has created a moving and vital account of Henrietta Szold that is perfectly complemented by the bold, stunning illustrations of Ukrainian-American artist Yevgenia Nayberg. I recommend it for ALL ages.


This beautiful quote from Henrietta Szold ends this important picture book:

“Dare to dream, and when you dream, dream big.”

I reviewed a library copy of A Queen to the Rescue. Find it at a library near you or see purchase options–both at WorldCat.org.

Learn more about older adults as activists , read about early environmentalist Gwen Frostic in Nature’s Friend , Marjory Stoneman Douglas in Marjory Saves the Everglades and President Nelson Mandela.

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