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Review: Welcoming Elijah

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Welcoming Elijah: A Passover Tale with a Tail by Lesléa Newman, illustrated by Susan Gal Category: Picture Book
Reviewer: Anna Caplan

In Lesléa Newman’s gentle picture book Welcoming Elijah: A Passover Tale with a Tail, the Passover seder is rich with sensory experience. It’s also a little bit magical.

Using simple, lyrical prose, Newman takes readers on a journey through two separate worlds: a boy experiences the seder indoors while a stray kitten wanders outside. Although the boy and the kitten occupy different spaces, their experiences echo one another:

Inside, the boy dipped
parsley into salt water.

Outside, the kitten chewed
A wet blade of grass.

Inside, the boy broke
the middle matzo in half.

outside, the kitten split
a twig in two.

This soothing pattern of phrases beginning with “inside” and “outside” continues throughout the book. The repetition propels readers forward towards the inevitable meeting between boy and kitten. When they eventually meet, the moment is…

Review: Trailblazers: Albert Einstein

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Trailblazers: Albert Einstein by Paul Virr, illustrated by Artful Doodlers
Category: Middle Grade
Reviewer: Stacy Nockowitz

Paul Virr’s biography of “the greatest mind in physics” begins not with Einstein’s birth in 1879 but with the event that thrust the German-born scientist into the public spotlight: the solar eclipse of 1919. The scientific study of the eclipse, Virr says, proved Albert Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, transforming the humble patent clerk into a worldwide celebrity. Virr hooks his middle grade reader not with boring dates and discussions of family lineage but by telling the personal stories that reveal how Einstein became a revered global figure. Trailblazers: Albert Einstein is part of the Trailblazers biography series, which attempts to hit the sweet spot for middle grade students between the elementary-level Who Is? series and more in-depth (aka dull) biographies on library shelves. Virr should be applauded for his efforts here, considering his valiant attempt…

Review: You're the Cheese in My Blintz

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You're the Cheese in My Blintz by Leslie Kimmelman, illustrated by Ramona Kaulitzki Category: Picture Book Reviewer: Kathy Bloomfield

Using lilting, rhyming verse, this delightful board book conveys what is in every parent’s heart – the depth of love they have for their baby: “In my blintz, you’re the cheese./To my heart, you’re the keys./ You’re the joy of each Shabbat./ You’re the soup in my pot./You’re the hip in my hooray/…the sweet peace of every day…” and so on.

Most pages depict a single parent and child enjoying some activity together, e.g. a picnic of blintzes and strawberries, a Shabbat dinner, dancing around the room. The parents and children depicted represent a multicultural, ethnic mix as well as a range of Jewish observance, which is lovely and rare to see in books for a Jewish audience.

The illustrations are charming, using a muted color palette with simple expressions to represent joy, wonder, peace and more.

This is a wonderful title for new parents.

With Alef-…

Introducing: Susan Kusel

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It's time once again to meet your Sydney Taylor Shmooze admins! Three friends run this blog: Susan Kusel (whose brainchild it was) and her partners in crime, Chava Pinchuck and Heidi Rabinowitz. You can read a bit about us in the About section but we thought you might like to get to know each of us a little better. In this final installment, it's Susan's turn.

1. Describe a day in your professional life.  I love being a solo synagogue librarian because so many different things could happen in one day. I answer reference questions on every topic from board books to Talmuds, and have patrons every age from 2 to 92. I work with our volunteers, religious school, nursery school, clergy, adult education and temple book clubs. I select new books, buy, process and catalog them. I sort through boxes of donations and see what can be added to the library. I do story times. Oh, and I shelve books. It’s a fun job.
2. Talk about your experience on the Sydney Taylor Book Award Committe…

Introducing: Chava Pinchuck

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Once again, it's time to meet your Sydney Taylor Shmooze admins! Three friends run this blog: Susan Kusel (whose brainchild it was) and her partners in crime, Chava Pinchuck and Heidi Rabinowitz. You can read a bit about us in the About section but we thought you might like to get to know each of us a little better. Today it's Chava's turn.

1. Describe a day in your professional life. My professional life is very quiet compared to Heidi's. I am usually sitting at my desk, working on the computer. I spend a good portion of the day doing research and looking at book reviews.
2. Talk about your experience on the Sydney Taylor Book Award Committee.  My time on the committee was one of the best experiences of my life, both personally and professionally. I read so many great books (and a few duds), I learned so much about Jewish Children's Literature and secular children's literature. I enjoyed working with my amazing AJL colleagues, and I made great friends for lif…

Introducing: Heidi Rabinowitz

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It's time to meet your Sydney Taylor Shmooze admins! Three friends run this blog: Susan Kusel (whose brainchild it was) and her partners in crime, Chava Pinchuck and Heidi Rabinowitz. You can read a bit about us in the About section but we thought you might like to get to know each of us a little better. Today it's Heidi's turn.

1. Describe a day in your professional life.Things I hear every day: "Miss Heidi, what are we reading about today?" "Another book, please!"  "I'm going to Disney World tomorrow!" "I have a dog!" "The! End!" "I love you, Miss Heidi."

Things I say every day: "Everybody say 'Hi, Miss Heidi!'" "Do you hear the rhyming in this book?" "You get what you get and you don't get upset." "Take your finger out of your nose." "What a good question!" "I love you too."

Things I do every day:
Preschool storytime for babies through ag…

The Chairs Speak

Hi, I'm Heidi Rabinowitz, one of your editors at The Shmooze. I'm also the host of The Book of Life Podcast, where I've been interviewing Real Sydney Taylor Book Award Committee chairs for many years. I'd like to share with you the last three years of "big reveal" podcast episodes, in which that year's chair announces and discusses the winning Sydney Taylor Book Award titles.Getting familiar with past winners may help you in your quest to figure out what will win this year!