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Review: Paris Secrets

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Paris Secrets: A Jake McGreevy Novel by Sean Vogel MB Publishing Category: Middle Grade Reviewer: Rachel J. Fremmer Buy at Bookshop.org Paris Secrets: A Jake McGreevy Novel immediately reminded me of the Bobbsey Twins mysteries. With their wide-eyed innocence, ability to get adults in authority to help them, good manners, and overall wholesomeness, I expected 15-year-old protagonist Jake and his friend and baking partner Ben to exclaim “Gee whiz!” at any moment. While the book is aimed at readers ages 10 and up, I suspect that most of today’s tweens would consider themselves too sophisticated for it.   Paris Secrets follows Jake and Ben as they head to Paris, France for a baking competition. Jake brings with him a photograph from 1940 that belonged to Jake’s dead mother. The only thing he knows about the photograph is that it was taken in Paris.   As you might expect of a photo taken of a Jewish family in Paris in 1940, the Nazis are not far behind.   With improbab

Review: Chunky

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 Chunky written & illustrated by Yehudi Mercado Katherine Tegan Books (imprint of HarperCollins Publishers) Category: Middle Grade Reviewer: Beth L. Gallego   Buy at Bookshop.org Meet Chunky: a hot pink, big-eyed, blue-tongued drawing come to life, courtesy of Yehudi Mercado’s vibrant imagination.    In this fictionalized version of his childhood, after a doctor recommends Hudi lose weight, his parents decide he should find a sport. Hudi would much rather develop his comedy or art skills, and it doesn’t help that he is remarkably accident-prone. He gets hit with the ball twice when he tries baseball, sprains his ankle off the field during a soccer game, and has to quit swimming when a hand injury must be kept dry.   At home, Hudi’s family is struggling financially and trying to prepare for his sister’s Bat Mitzvah. Hudi is supposed to memorize a reading for the service, but he is much more concerned with how he can make people laugh.   As Hudi’s personal mascot and biggest

Review: Whistle

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 Whistle: A New Gotham City Hero  by E. Lockhart, illustrated by Manuel Preitano DC Comics Category: Young Adult Reviewer: Heidi Rabinowitz Buy at Bookshop.org Willow Zimmerman is a white Jewish teen activist in Gotham City's Down River neighborhood, who gets mixed up in the criminal underworld in order to support her cancer-stricken mother. When an attack by Killer Croc leaves her with dog-like superpowers, she becomes Whistle, a hero who defends the neighborhood against crime, along with her Great Dane sidekick Lebowitz. Manuel Preitano's illustrations give us a female superhero who is portrayed as a realistic physically fit young woman, who devises a hero outfit that is comfortable and practical. She has a proud Jewish nose and big, curly, frizzy hair. Her bestie is Latinx and her crush is Black. These small details add up to a story that feels modern and real. First-person narration puts readers in the middle of the action, and in the middle of Willow's ethical quandar

Review: The Renegade Reporters

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 The Renegade Reporters by Elissa Brent Weissman Dial Books (Penguin Random House) Category: Middle Grade Reviewer: Stacy Mozer Buy at Bookshop.org When Ash and her best friend Maya are suspended from the school news team for accidentally sharing an inappropriate report, they know in their hearts they can't stay away from the news. They decide to become renegade reporters, and create their own online news program. When a story about the company that gives the school its software falls in their laps, they have to decide whether they will continue to report alone or if they will do what is best for the story. This book would be a perfect addition to a library media curriculum that explores online safety and digital citizenship. The Judaism in this story is built into the character. As Ash is following her news story, she is also celebrating Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur and sharing her family's traditions. The book has positive and authentic Jewish religious or cultural content, i

Review: Sundays with Savta

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Sundays with Savta by Wiley Blevins, illustrated by Eliahou Eric Bokobza Reycraft Books (imprint of Newmark Learning LLC) Category: Picture Books Reviewer: Rachel J. Fremmer   Buy at Bookshop.org When the unnamed protagonist’s grandmother visits from Israel, Savta takes her grandson to the Statue of Liberty and to the Museum of Jewish Heritage in lower Manhattan (unnamed in the text). Grandmother and grandson enter a series of rooms with paintings representing Jewish holidays and certain events in Israeli history; Savta identifies each holiday and shares a family story about it. Although he is planning to celebrate his bar mitzvah in Israel in less than 2 years, the boy seems to know nearly nothing about Jewish holidays. It strains credulity that an 11-year-old who plans on having a bar mitzvah would have so little familiarity with Jewish holidays and traditions. When the boy goes to Israel a year and a half later, we learn that his grandmother has died. He goes to visit her gr

Review: The Backyard Secrets of Danny Wexler

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 The Backyard Secrets of Danny Wexler by Karen Pokras Kar-Ben Publishing (imprint of Lerner Publishing Group) Category: Middle Grade Reviewer: Stacy Mozer Buy at Bookshop.org Growing up in a factory town in the 1970s, eleven year old Danny Wexler has always known he was the only Jewish kid in town, but it hasn't really affected him. That is, until his father gets a promotion and some of the other workers don't think he deserves it because he's Jewish. Fortunately, Danny's two good friends stand with him and support him and together they try to solve a mystery inspired by a movie about the Bermuda Triangle and a white van. This book meets the Sydney Taylor criteria because it is appropriate for the intended grade level in style, vocabulary, format, and illustration, is solidly rooted in authentic and accurate detail through scholarship and research by the author, and it has positive and authentic Jewish religious or cultural content. I particularly liked how the author e

Review: Bubbe and Bart's Matzoh Ball Mayhem

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Bubbe and Bart's Matzoh Ball Mayhem by Bonnie Grubman, illustrated by Deborah Melmon Intergalactic Afikomen Category: Picture Books Reviewer: Lila Spitz  Buy at Bookshop.org In this playful and entertaining book, chaos ensues when Bubbe and her Jewish puppy Bart cook matzoh ball soup for Shabbat dinner. As the matzoh balls bubble out of the pot, Bart playfully catches them in order from one to seven. Grubman’s use of rhyming couplets, figurative language, and clever word choices create an educational and lively story for young readers. The projectile matzoh balls in the book serve multiple purposes; to teach readers to count and to keep intended readers engaged with the story. The cartoon-like illustrations convey a welcoming and playful environment familiar to young readers. The characters featured in the story are diverse in age and country of origin. School-aged children, parents and a grandparent are represented in the story. The book incorporates characters with diverse skin