Showing posts from October, 2020

Review: Letters from Cuba

  Letters from Cuba by Ruth Behar Category: Middle Grade Reviewer: Meira Drazin Buy at It is January 1938 and 12-year-old Esther leaves behind her mother, brothers and beloved sister Malka in their small town in Poland—where things are getting increasingly harder for Jews—to board a ship to Cuba. There she will join her father and help him earn enough money to (hopefully soon) bring the rest of the family. Esther promises her sister that she will write to her and tell her everything that happens and so proceeds Pura Belpré award-winning author Ruth Behar’s newest middle grade novel, Letters From Cuba . Although the Jewish community is in Havana, Esther’s father has taken up residence in a tiny village called Agramonte from which he can peddle his wares throughout the countryside, making the journey to Havana only when he needs to restock. Soon, through Esther’s resourcefulness and talents, including as a deft and creative dressmaker, they are able to earn more and more mon

Review: A Place at the Table

A Place at the Table by Saadia Faruqi and Laura Shovan Category: Middle Grade Reviewer: Meira Drazin A Place at the Table by Saadia Faruqi and Laura Shovan is about sixth-graders Sara and Elizabeth who bridge their outward differences to team up for cooking club and ultimately for friendship. Sara has just joined the large local Poplar Springs Middle School after having gone to a small mosque school her whole life. Looking to earn extra money and supplement her Pakistani cuisine catering business, Sara’s mom Mrs. Hameed becomes the new after-school cooking club teacher, specializing in Southeast Asian food. Elizabeth, enamored by food as well as the practical aspects of cooking for her family when her British mother’s expertise is opening a tin and buying microwavable hot pockets, excitedly takes the after-school club with her best friend Maddy, who promptly ditches her for a new cool best friend. Prickly Sara, who has to sit in the class anyway as she waits for her mom, agrees to be

Review: The Littlest Candle: A Hanukkah Story

The Littlest Candle: A Hanukkah Story by Rabbis Kerry and Jesse Olitzky, illustrated by Jen Kostman Category: Picture Books Reviewer: Heidi Rabinowitz Buy at A group of animate candles living in a kitchen drawer are excited about Hanukkah's approach. They enter into a lively debate about who should be lit on the first night of the holiday; the various Hanukkah candles, and oddly, the Shabbat candles, and even the Havdalah candle argue for their own suitability for this role. Only Little Flicker, the smallest candle, hangs back, instead supporting others and providing useful information. At last the rest of the candles realize that modest Little Flicker is so helpful that he should be the shamash, the helper candle. "He smiled brightly because he knew he was there to help. And that was the most important way to bring more light to Hanukkah." The logic of anthropomorphic candles who apparently survive repeated lightings is a bit shaky, and the text i

Review: Nicanor's Gate

Nicanor's Gate by Eric A. Kimmel, illustrated by Alida Massari Category: Picture Books Reviewer: Rachel Kamin Buy at Nicanor’s Gate by Eric Kimmel was first published by The Jewish Publication Society in 1979 with illustrations by Jerry Joyner (1938-2019). The undersized 7x7 inch trim had lengthy, dense text in a small font on the right side of each page along with a framed two color black and blue, difficult-to-decipher illustration on the right. It’s no wonder the book hasn’t circulated from my synagogue library since 1990! Fortunately, Eric Kimmel has penned a new, more accessible version of this wonderful, ancient Talmudic tale with lush, radiant full-color, full spread illustrations in earth tones, blues, and pinks by Alida Massari (Under the Sabbath Lamp , 2017). The simple, clear, and concise text tells the story of the wealthy merchant from Alexandria who volunteers to commission new gates for the ruined Temple in Jerusalem. But when the ship carrying N