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Review: The Night War

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The Night War by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley Dial (imprint of Penguin Random House), 2024 Category: Middle Grade Reviewer: Sarah Aronson Buy at Bookshop.org “We don’t choose how we feel, but we choose how we act. Choose courage.” The Night War is a story about the Holocaust. It’s a story about bravery at a time when choices were not clear. But mostly, it’s a story of strong women and girls at a time when strength was needed. The novel follows twelve-year-old Miriam Schrieber, a Jewish girl fighting to survive the horrors of WWII. At the start of the story, she lives with her family in occupied France. When the adults are rounded up, Miriam and her neighbor’s two-year-old daughter Nora, escape in the chaos. Nora’s mom implores her to be brave—and to meet them in Zurich. Saved by a Catholic nun, the children are sent to Chenonceaux, at the border of occupied France and French-controlled Vichy. Nora goes to a young Catholic couple wanting to start a family, while Miri—pretending to be Chri

Review: Waiting for Lumpy

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Waiting for Lumpy by Leslie Kimmelman, illustrated by Teresa Ramos Apples & Honey Press (imprint of Behrman House Publishers), 2024 Category: Picture Books Reviewer: Jacqueline Jules   Buy at Bookshop.org Waiting for Lumpy begins in winter when Ella’s parents announce that a new baby is coming. As the current baby of the family, Ella isn’t sure she likes this news. Her older brother, Robby, on the other hand, is happy to suggest names for the new baby such as Frogella or Horseradish after his favorite Passover food. In summer, when Mommy’s figure becomes round, Ella says they should name the baby, Lumpy. She also complains that there is not room anymore for her to sit on her mother’s lap. Finally, it is Rosh Hashanah and the family welcomes their long awaited new addition. They choose both an English name and a Hebrew name to announce at a naming ceremony held in the synagogue on Shabbat.    This delightful early reader in seven short chapters goes through not only the seasons of

Review: The Effects of Pickled Herring

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The Effects of Pickled Herring by Alex Schumacher Mango, 2024 Category: Middle Grade Reviewer: Merle Eisman Carrus Buy at Bookshop.org Remember the days of trying to fit in, in middle school, trying to make friends, participate in sports and get your homework done? Reading this graphic novel will help any teenager who is grappling with the changes that are happening to them, and the changes that happen to our grandparents as they age. Micah Gadsky and his sister Alana are preparing for their B'nai Mitzvah. As they are learning their prayers, Torah and Haftorah portions, they are also learning many life lessons. This story follows Micah as his voice cracks while practicing his Hebrew prayers, as he worries about not remembering what to say when he gets up on the bima, and as he struggles to get up the courage to ask a girl he likes to his Bar Mitzvah. We follow Micah as he goes to school and negotiates the trials of adolescence. While Micah finds the social scene in middle school di

Review: Five Stories

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Five Stories written and illustrated by Ellen Weinstein Holiday House, 2024 Category: Picture Books Reviewer: Rachel J. Fremmer Buy at Bookshop.org The Lower East Side holds a special place in Jewish-American history, memory, and imagination. After all, the award for best Jewish children’s books (and therefore this blog), gets its very name from the author of books set there. From those books to the movie Crossing Delancey, the Lower East Side exists both as a real location (I should know - I grew up there!) and a mythical place. But the Lower East Side was not, and is not, home to just Jews. In Five Stories , Ellen Weinstein traces the history of the different waves of immigration to this neighborhood by following one family from each wave: Jewish, Italian, Dominican, Puerto Rican, and Chinese. Playing on the word “story,” she shows them residing on different floors of the same building. She emphasizes how music, food, and language kept all of these immigrants connected to their cultu

Review: Saliman and the Memory Stone

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Saliman and the Memory Stone by Erica Lyons, illustrated by Yinon Ptahia Apples & Honey Press (imprint of Behrman House), 2024 Category: Picture Books Reviewer: Karen Shakman Buy at Bookshop.org Saliman and the Memory Stone joins a growing collection of recent books for children that paint a  diverse picture of Israeli Jews. In 1841, a young boy travels from his home in Yemen to resettle in Jerusalem as part of the First Aliyah. Young Saliman is sad to leave, afraid he will not remember his home and his village. Before he goes, he tells the goats he will always remember them and pockets a loose stone from his house and calls it his memory stone. Thus begins a journey to retain his past while heading toward his future. Lyon’s language is lyrical, capturing both the difficulty of the journey and a palpable sense of a loving family and tight-knit community, even as they must endure a long and arduous journey (which is helpfully illustrated in a map at the end of the book). Throughout

Review: Zevi Takes the Spotlight

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Zevi Takes the Spotlight by Carol Matas Orca Currents (imprint of Orca Book Publishers), 2024 Category: Middle Grade Reviewer: Stacey Rattner Buy at Bookshop.org Do you ever think you would like to see into the future? Zevi has that unique gift. He’s a psychic. And not only that, he can also read people’s minds and thoughts. Therefore, he’s not your typical seventh grader. Zevi, who fantasizes about being a famous actor one day, gets closer to this dream when the actor Robert Lemon comes to Zevis’ home town of Vancouver to shoot his first role in a major drama film. Robert Lemon is known for his action films, not dramas. Could he really be that bad of an actor when he switches genres? Maybe. It gets even more exciting when the producers choose Zevi’s unusual home for the set. Is this the break Zevi’s looking for? What if Robert Lemon offers him a job in his next movie? But when Zevi has to use his psychic powers to save Robert and figure out who's trying to hurt him, be becomes too

Review: Shabbat Shalom, Grover!

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Shabbat Shalom, Grover! by Joni Kibort Sussman, illustrated by Tom Leigh Kar-Ben Publishing (imprint of Lerner Publishing Group), 2024 Category: Picture Books Reviewer: Julie Ditton Buy at Bookshop.org Shabbat Shalom, Grover is the perfect first Shabbat book for a Jewish toddler. Kar-ben has published a whole series of board books based on the Shalom Sesame TV show, which was an English version of the Israeli Sesame Street. Each book in the series includes the key elements for a Jewish holiday that are important to the little ones. This sturdy board book shows Grover and his mom preparing for and celebrating Shabbat with friends.  First there are pictures of the preparations: they clean the house, bake challah, and then set the table. We then have pictures of them celebrating Shabbat. These colorful illustrations include lighting the candles and saying the Kiddush and Hamotzi before sitting down to a Shabbat dinner. The text is short and sweet, perfect for a board book. Children will