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Review: Noah Green Saves the World

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Noah Green Saves the World by Laura Toffler-Corrie, illustrated by Macky Pamintuan Category: Middle Grade Reviewer: Sandy Wasserman Buy at Bookshop.org For middle graders who missed sleep away camp this year due to Covid, the only thing missing from this book is a bag of marshmallows! Otherwise, this book makes the reader feel and taste the full camp experience; it's FILLED with the yearnings and angst of grade 4-6 summer friendships and almost-friendships at summer camp. With a boy who is not too keen on sports (and would rather be elsewhere) as its main protagonist, the plot twists and turns with his other bunkmates and even a tech savvy grandpa who visits camp and comes to the rescue! Plenty included to attract girl readers, too. This is a kids'-summer-book for the winter; matter of fact, for all year round. Any child who loves the Jewish camping experience will be thrilled to read this book. In fact, even parents who fondly remember their own Jewish camping sleep-a-way days

Review: Sadie's Shabbat Stories

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Review: Sadie's Shabbat Stories by Melissa Stoller, illustrated by Lisa Goldberg Category: Picture Books Reviewer: Freidele Galya Soban Biniashvili  Buy at Bookshop.org In Sadie’s Shabbat Stories , author Stoller has crafted a sweet story about the three Judaic items that are used by Sadie’s grandmother, her Nana, on Shabbat: “silver candlesticks, a sacred kiddush cup full of wine or grape juice, and a challah cover to honor the special bread.” At each point of use on this Friday night, young Sadie asks her grandmother to tell her the history behind each item. A melodious refrain in the text has Sadie envisioning her ancestors after Nana relates each of the three stories and ably ties the past to the present for the reader. After Sadie hears all of these stories, she tells her own Shabbat story which includes the three aforementioned objects as well as a Star of David pendant which Sadie has gifted to Nana. Eventually, the whole book comes full circle with Sadie as a grandmother he

Review: The Hanukkah Magic of Nate Gadol

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The Hanukkah Magic of Nate Gadol by Arthur A. Levine, illustrated by Kevin Hawkes Category: Picture Books Reviewer: Bridget Hodder Buy at Bookshop.org As we all know, spinning Hanukkah dreidels isn't just about gleeful shrieking over heaps of shiny chocolate coins. The Hebrew letters on each side of the dreidel represent the beautiful phrase, "Nais Gadol Haya Shum"-- "A great miracle happened there." And from this shining holiday thread of words, coins and miracles, author Arthur A. Levine has spun a Hanukkah tale about a magical giver of gifts with eyes bright as coins, whose name, Nate Gadol, echoes the Hanukkah phrase on our dreidels. True to his name, (in Hebrew, Nathan Gadol can loosely translate as "a great act of giving"), Nate Gadol appears in the book as a large smiling fellow with an equally large and giving heart. Nate also happens to be a heaven-sent spirit who answers people's prayers by making crucial things last as long as they are

Review: Today Tonight Tomorrow

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Today Tonight Tomorrow by Rachel Lynn Solomon  Category: Young Adult Reviewer: A.R. Vishny   Buy at Bookshop.org Today Tonight Tomorrow is an enemies-to-lovers contemporary romance that follows two academic rivals on the last day of their senior year of high school. Rowan Roth and Neil McNair have spent much of their high school careers trying to outdo each other for the best grades and accolades. Howl, a senior scavenger hunt spread all across Seattle, is their last chance to outdo one another. However, when Rowan realizes that a group of students wants revenge on the both of them, they put aside their feud for the evening to team up. Over the course of the evening they learn more about each other, and realize that they might actually be a perfect match. This book was a fun, addictive read. The narrative has a good sense of humor and a sweet romance at its heart. Rowan and Neil’s passions and insecurities feel authentically drawn, and the game element of the plot and the 24-hour time

Start Thinking About Your Favorites!

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    As we are sure you remember, The Sydney Taylor Shmooze is a mock award blog created to encourage discussion of books eligible for the Sydney Taylor Book Award. The purpose is to grow awareness of the genre and of the criteria for the Award, and to help readers critically consider Jewish literature for youth. Well, now we've experienced almost a full year of Jewish kidlit together and it's time to think about handing out some mock awards! Here's what you can expect in the upcoming months: We will continue posting book reviews for eligible 2020 titles through the end of the December, 2020. Monday-Friday January 4-8, 2021 Voting Round 1 . Anyone may vote (except for current members of AJL's Sydney Taylor Book Award committee). Voters may select one favorite title in each of three categories (Picture Books, Middle Grade, Young Adult). Every book reviewed on the blog this year will be on the ballot. Monday-Friday January 11-15, 2021 Voting Round 2 . The top books th

Review: A Crowded Farmhouse Folktale

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A Crowded Farmhouse Folktale by Karen Rostoker-Gruber, illustrated by Kristina Swarner Category: Picture Books Reviewer: Karin Fisher-Golton Buy at Bookshop.org A Crowded Farmhouse Folktale holds its space beautifully in a somewhat crowded field of picture book retellings of the Yiddish folktale known as “It Could Always Be Worse” or “The Overcrowded House.” The tale has been retold many times for good reason. The message that happiness derives from perception is timeless, and one that we humans seem to need to be reminded of again and again. In the tale, the lesson is taught in humorous fashion by a wise person—typically a rabbi, but in this telling a wise woman—asking the inhabitants of the crowded house to bring in more people and/or animals, so that when they return to the usual number of inhabitants, the house seems comparatively roomy. Author Karen Rostoker-Gruber sets this picture book version on a farm—an engaging setting for her young audience. She uses repetition and rhyme,

Review: Chance: Escape from the Holocaust

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 Chance: Escape from the Holocaust by Uri Shulevitz Category: Middle Grade Reviewer: Rachel Fremmer Buy at Bookshop.org Chance: Escape from the Holocaust by Uri Shulevitz is a tour de force, a culmination of his life’s work, in which he traces his family’s journey from Poland to various locations in the Soviet Union during World War II. In direct, simple, and yet beautiful prose, he matter-of-factly recounts the horrors and the hunger - such hunger! - of those days. The book also traces his personal evolution as an artist, reader, and writer. In a particularly appropriate choice of words, he says that, as a refugee, his “only refuge was drawing” and that drawing was his “home.” The title of the book reflects Shulevitz’s belief - dare I say theology? - that he and his parents were saved by chance alone. He asks why he and his non-observant parents were saved while his deeply devout grandfather was not and concludes “I have no answers.” This philosophy, hard for anyone to accept, may be