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Review: Matzah Craze

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Matzah Craze  by Jamie Kiffel-Alcheh #ownvoices, illustrated by Lauren Gallegos Kar-Ben Publishing (a division of Lerner Publishing Group) Category: Picture Books Reviewer: Mirele Kessous Buy at Bookshop.org Matzah Craze , by Jamie Kiffel-Alcheh and illustrated by Lauren Gallegos, takes a novel spin on the holiday of Passover. It can be awkward to bring a “Pesadic” (kosher-for-passover) lunch to school when your classmates are not familiar with Passover and its dietary restrictions. What’s a public school kid to do? Why, share the story of Passover (and the matzah) with her friends, of course! And what a diverse array of friends Noa has! Gallegos has done an excellent job portraying children of different races and backgrounds, all of whom welcome a short lesson on Jewish history from their Jewish friend. This is all done in simple rhyme, and the ease of language combined with the bright, appealing illustrations by a true professional makes this an engaging read aloud for children ages

Review: The Seventh Handmaiden

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The Seventh Handmaiden by Judith Pransky #ownvoices Green Bean Books Category: Middle Grade Reviewer: Leah Cypress Buy at Bookshop.org The Seventh Handmaiden by Judith Pransky is a middle grade work of historical fiction. Set in the Persian Empire, the book follows a young slave girl, Darya, with a mysterious past. Eventually Darya is assigned to the royal palace, where she becomes embroiled in the intrigue surrounding the king's search for a new queen... and, eventually, in that queen's confrontation with the king's minister, Haman. This unique and fascinating book blends Darya's life with the Purim story. The connection between the two does not become clear until the middle of the book, but the characterization of Darya and the whirlwind ups and downs of her life make compelling reading even without the Purim tie-in. Historical details about the Persian Empire are woven into the highly readable story. An afterword helps separate facts from fiction, and also explains

Review: Queen Vashti's Comfy Pants

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Queen Vashti's Comfy Pants by Leah Rachel Berkowitz #ownvoices, illustrated by Ruth Bennett Apples & Honey Press (imprint of Behrman House) Category: Picture Books Reviewer: Sandy Wasserman Buy at Bookshop.org In perfect rhyme the reader learns about the lesser-known Purim heroine, Queen Vashti! She’s enjoying a fine afternoon with her friends, wearing not-fancy clothes, not ready to perform for the king, but playing cards, drinking tea, and noshing - wearing ‘comfy pants!’ This book is hilarious! Not irreverent, just filled with chutzpah! When the king summons her to dance, assuming she’’ll come just because of his directive - well no! Vashti is not having any of it! Not even when his messenger tries to drag her to entertain, does she budge! - This book is all about a woman’s right to say “NO!” for anything! The illustrations are to die for, with their colorful, whimsical Persian harem feel… And Vashti’s harem-of-friends! They are one-solid-sisterhood of “NO!” She’s got her ch

Review: The Magician's Visit

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The Magician's Visit  by I.L. Peretz #ownvoices, adapted by Barbara Diamond Goldin #ownvoices, illustrated by Eva Sánchez Gómez Green Bean Books Category: Picture Books Reviewer: Kathy Bloomfield Buy at Bookshop.org The classic I.L. Peretz story of a penniless street magician who assists a poor couple in celebrating a truly miraculous Passover has been revised by Barbara Diamond Goldin from her 1993 edition. The language of this version has been brought up to date, for example, the couple Hayim-Jonah and Rivkah-Bailah are now Jonah and Rebecca, and the story text has been tightened. Instead of the dark, oil-based illustrations by Robert Andrew Parker in the 1993 edition, we have lighter, brighter illustrations by Eva Sánchez Gómez, using colored pencils on a white background. This is an excellent update of her earlier work, with all the charm and miracles of the first version. While this may be the classic version of this classic Passover story, and one that should find a place on

Winner Interviews

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It's been a wonderful week of interviews on the 2021 Sydney Taylor Book Award Blog Tour! For your convenience, here are links to every stop on the tour: Lesléa Newman and Susan Gal , author and illustrator of Welcoming Elijah Sydney Taylor Book Award in the Picture Book Category at A Fuse #8 Production at School Library Journal Sofiya Pasternack , author of Anya and the Nightingale Sydney Taylor Honor Book in the Middle Grade Category at 100 Scope Notes at School Library Journal M. Evan Wolkenstein , author of Turtle Boy Sydney Taylor Book Award in the Middle Grade Category at Mr. Schu Reads Jane Yolen and Khoa Lee , author and illustrator of Miriam at the River Sydney Taylor Honor Book in the Picture Book Category at 7 Impossible Things Before Breakfast Anne Blankman , author of The Blackbird Girls Sydney Taylor Honor Book in the Middle Grade Category at The Paper Brigade Daily at The Jewish Book Council Monica Hesse , author of They Went Left Sydney Taylor Honor Book in the

Review: Esther Didn't Dream of Being Queen

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Esther Didn't Dream of Being Queen by Allison Ofanansky, illustrated by Valentina Belloni, Apples & Honey Press (imprint of Behrman House) #ownvoices Category: Picture Books Reviewer: Ruth Horowitz Buy at Bookshop.org Allison Ofanansky gives the familiar story of Esther a not-a-fairy-tale twist. Narrated by Esther, it begins with “Once upon a time,” and goes on to frame the story in the context of Cinderella. Like Cinderella, Esther is an orphan who becomes a queen. But there the similarities end. Esther is happy to live quietly with her cousin Mordecai, gardening and giggling with her friends. She disapproves of the king’s “rowdy parties,” and when word goes out that all pretty young women are to report to the palace for a beauty contest, Esther tries to avoid the order. The king, she states, is not her idea of “prince charming.” When she is eventually forced to appear at the palace, she follows Mordecai’s warning not to reveal her background, but notes that it feels “strange”

2021 Sydney Taylor Book Award Blog Tour Schedule

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The Sydney Taylor Book Award will be showcasing its 2021 gold and silver medalists with a Blog Tour, February 8-12, 2021! Interviews with winning authors and illustrators will appear on a variety of Jewish and kidlit blogs. Interviews will appear on the dates below, and will remain available to read at your own convenience. Below is the schedule for the 2021 Sydney Taylor Book Award Blog Tour. Please follow the links to visit the hosting blogs on or after their tour dates, and be sure to leave them plenty of comments! MONDAY, FEBRUARY 8, 2021  Lesléa Newman and Susan Gal , author and illustrator of Welcoming Elijah Sydney Taylor Book Award in the Picture Book Category at A Fuse #8 Production at School Library Journal Sofiya Pasternack , author of Anya and the Nightingale Sydney Taylor Honor Book in the Middle Grade Category at 100 Scope Notes at School Library Journal   TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 9, 2021 M. Evan Wolkenstein , author of Turtle Boy Sydney Taylor Book Award in the Middle