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Review: A Donut in Time

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A Donut in Time: A Hanukkah Story by Elana Rubinstein, illustrated by Jennifer Naalchigar Apples & Honey Press (imprint of Behrman House), 2022 Category: Middle Grade Reviewer: Merle Eisman Carrus Buy at Bookshop.org In A Donut in Time , Saralee helps out in her Zayde's restaurant, Siegel House. Noses play a very important role when Jewish holiday meals are involved. Saralee knows very well how important it is to distinguish the different smells when you work in a restaurant kitchen. Especially for Hanukkah, there are all the delicious fried foods with very distinctive smells.Everyone in the Siegel family joins in to get ready for customers on the first night of Hanukkah. They are cooking latkes and sufganiyot. This year they are going to use Saralee's original recipe for peanut butter and jelly donuts.  Saralee has an unusual talent, a super nose, which Zadie says she inherited from her great grandmother, Golda or Gigi. Saralee has always felt unusual because of her extra

Review: The Boston Chocolate Party

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The Boston Chocolate Party by Tami Lehman-Wilzig and Rabbi Deborah R. Prinz, illustrated by Fede Combi Apples & Honey Press (imprint of Behrman House), 2022 Category: Picture Books Reviewer: Shirley Reva Vernick Buy at Bookshop.org Joshua Mendes lives in colonial Newport, Rhode Island, where his father imports chocolate beans and teaches café owners how to make hot chocolate as an alternative to the highly taxed tea. It’s Hanukkah—or, as Joshua’s Sephardic family calls it, Janucá—and Joshua is missing his friend Isaac. Isaac has recently moved to Boston with his widowed mother, who is hoping to find work in the city. When Joshua visits Boston and sees how destitute his friend has become, he has a brainstorm. He convinces his father to create a chocolate café in the shed right outside Isaac’s home and hire Isaac’s mother to run it. On the night before the “chocolate house” is to open—which is also the last night of Hanukkah—the Boston Tea Party occurs right outside Isaac’s window. T

Review: Mendel's Hanukkah Mess Up

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Mendel's Hanukkah Mess Up by Chana and Larry Stiefel, illustrated by Daphna Awadish Kalaniot Books (imprint of Endless Mountains Publishing), 2022 Category: Picture Books Reviewer: Suzanne Grossman   Buy at Bookshop.org Mendel has “messed up” so many Hanukkahs with hysterical thoughtless mistakes that he is shocked when his rabbi gives him the most important task of all. This year he will drive the Mitzvah Mobile through the town to share the miracle of Hanukkah. All goes well until he drives under a low overpass, “crumpling the car like used gift wrap”. A new holiday miracle occurs: in the wreckage, the menorah’s candles are still lit! All ends well when the local news covers the event, allowing Mendel to broadcast the message, “we each have a spark to light up the world.” Digital artwork adds to the fun, creating opportunities for discussion while keeping young readers excited about turning the pages. Backmatter including a brief history of the holiday, dreidel playing instructi

Review: J Is for Janucá

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J is for Janucá by Melanie Romero, illustrated by Cassie Gonzales Lil' Libros, 2022 Category: Picture Books  Reviewer: Karin Fisher-Golton Buy at Bookshop.org J is for Janucá is a joyful, educational celebration of languages and of Hanukkah. Each page of this alphabet book introduces a Spanish word and its English equivalent, beginning with “Aa is for Aceite/Oil.” Each page also includes a paragraph of text in English and a paragraph in Spanish with the same content. Depending on the age, language abilities, and interests of the reader, one could read one, both, or neither paragraph. The letters follow the Spanish alphabet, so include ch, ll, ñ, and rr. This structure, in itself, demonstrates information about language—that there are multiple alphabets and multiple words that describe the same holiday. And Jews celebrate Hanukkah in many languages. Melanie Romero’s cheery, compact text is rich with information. The first several letters of the book cover key components of Hanukkah

Review: We Survived the Holocaust

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We Survived the Holocaust: The Bluma and Felix Goldberg Story by Frank W. Baker, illustrated by Tim E. Ogline Image and Wonder, 2022 Category: Young Adult Reviewer: Lisa Trank Buy at Bookshop.org The field of graphic novels often covers difficult topics through a delicate balance of the visual and the word. In the world of Jewish literature, graphic novels provide a unique way to tell the story of the Holocaust to a wide range of audiences, and in particular, younger readers. The graphic novel We Survived the Holocaust by Frank W. Baker and Tim E. Ogline began with a simple request. “Frankie, do something with this,” Felix Goldberg said, handing the author the speech he’d just delivered to their South Carolina synagogue on Yom Hashoah in 2000. Baker, a lifelong friend of the Goldbergs, worked with the family to create www.storiesofsurvival.org , a website dedicated to the Goldbergs' life before, during, and after World War II, and their life in South Carolina. However, after rea

Review: Hanukkah Nights

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Hanukkah Nights written and illustrated by Amalia Hoffman Kar-Ben Publishing (imprint of Lerner Publishing Group), 2022 Category: Picture Books Reviewer: Arlene Schenker Buy at Bookshop.org This is an unusual Hanukkah board book. It is mostly visual, with intriguing, colorful designs on black pages that let a child’s imagination wander freely. On the left side of each spread we see a different artistic technique (spattered paint, chalk doodles, and so on) representing a candle flame. On the right we see the candles topped with these unique flames. The nights are counted from one to eight with a simple two-line rhyme for each. The book concludes by showing a menorah filled with all of the artistically lit candles, followed by a scene of the child artist surrounded by art supplies. Then comes a bonus for kids who love to create: instructions on how to reproduce each of the freestyle flame designs in the book with paint, pencils, chalk, and household items like an eyedropper, a plastic

Review: Hanukkah at Monica's

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Hanukkah at Monica's  written & illustrated by Varda Livney PJ Publishing, 2022 Category: Picture Books Reviewer: Rinat Hadad Siegel We have all attended Hanukkah parties, but parties with an octopus, a jellyfish, and a pirate as guests are quite rare. Varda Livney has so much fun in this clever and imaginative picture book. The story begins with child-friendly illustrations where we see a cheerful dark-skinned girl, Monica, pushing a shopping cart filled with russet potatoes (the ones recommended for latkes, by the way…). We learn that Monica is having a party for Hanukkah, but not with typical guests. Each guest is a clever twist on a Hanukkah custom. The octopus and its eight arms brings the Menorah. The pirate brings in gold coins, and the jellyfish carries in jelly donuts. Livney uses repetition, allowing young readers to guess who the next guest will be, offering a hint with an illustration of the guest's shadow on the door. The climax of the story relates to the Hanu