Posts

Showing posts from March, 2021

Review: The Great Passover Escape

Image
 The Great Passover Escape by Pamela Moritz #ownvoices, illustrated by Florence Weiser Kar-Ben Publishing (imprint of Lerner Publishing Group) Category: Picture Books Reviewer: Jeff Gottesfeld Buy at Bookshop.org Jerusalem is home to the famed Biblical Zoo, originally conceived as a place for animals named in the Tanach, but expanded to include endangered and other species. Moritz crafts a whimsical, amusing, and sometimes laugh-out-loud Passover story about three creatures in that zoo -- a kangaroo, elephant, and monkey -- who've heard about Passover from their zookeeper, and plot to escape from the zoo and attend a Passover seder. There's a lot of humor in their relative understanding of the holiday. The monkey has the facts right; the kangaroo and elephant, less so. For example, kangaroo and elephant believe that Hashem sent planes and plates, respectively to free the Hebrews from bondage. Weiser's art reflects their misunderstanding, and it's funny to see a passenge

Review: Sarah's Solo

Image
 Sarah's Solo by Tracy Brown #ownvoices, illustrated by Paula Wegman #ownvoices Kalaniot Books Category: Picture Books Reviewer: Mirele Kessous Buy at Bookshop.org Sarah’s Solo by Tracy Brown definitely fills a niche in children’s publishing. It portrays the Jewish wedding ceremony and after-party through a child’s eyes. Sarah is upset that she cannot attend her ballet recital, which is scheduled for the exact same day as her cousin Lizzy’s wedding. In spite of her reluctance to attend, Sarah learns that Jewish wedding music can move her in much the same way that ballet music does. It has its own dance moves, which she learns quickly. Sarah begins to enjoy herself and even performs a “solo” on the dance floor. I think that Tracy Brown could have incorporated more of the Jewish wedding ceremony (she only mentions the circling of the groom and the breaking of the glass), although she does include a glossary of wedding terms at the end. Wegman’s illustrations are whimsical, full of

Review: Baby Moses in a Basket

Image
  Baby Moses in a Basket by Caryn Yacowitz #ownvoices, illustrated by Julie Downing Candlewick Press Category: Picture Books Reviewer: Heidi Rabinowitz Buy at Bookshop.org Baby Moses, set adrift in a basket by his mother, floats down the river Nile. An ibis, a hippopotamus, and a crocodile each meet the sleeping baby and, somewhat improbably, take a turn at protecting him through night and rainstorm. In the morning, Pharoah's daughter finds the baby and joyfully draws him out of the water. The narrative departs from the source material in Exodus beyond the insertion of the protective animals. The basket's journey lasts all night and seems to cover quite a distance. The baby is identified as Moses from the beginning, rather than being named Moses ("I drew him out of the water") by Pharoah's daughter. There is no mention of sister Miriam watching over her little brother and being on hand to offer her mother's nursing services to the princess, who gives no indica

Review: Hiding Baby Moses

Image
 Hiding Baby Moses  by Judith L. Roth, illustrated by Melanie Cataldo Flyaway Books Category: Picture Books Reviewer: Kathy Bloomfield Buy at Bookshop.org This is a lovingly told, beautifully illustrated midrash of the “Moses in a Basket” story. Miriam is depicted as a courageous older sister looking out for her baby brother, even standing up to the formidable looking Pharaoh’s daughter and her retinue. There are, however, a few items in this version that should give the Jewish reader pause. First, as Moses’ mother (who is only referred to as Mama in the story) carries the basket to the Nile River, she sings a soothing song. The song, “The Shelter of God’s Wings” has these lyrics: “God will hide us in the shelter of a rock./ God will shield with holy feathers, hide us ‘neath strong wings./ A refuge from the storm, a shadow from the heat,/ God will hide us in the shelter of strong wings,” that bear a striking resemblance to passages from Psalms (91:4, 17:8) and Isaiah (32:2), yet nowhe

Review: Meet the Matzah

Image
Meet the Matzah: A Sort-of Passover Story written and illustrated by Alan Silberberg #ownvoices Viking (imprint of Penguin Random House) Category: Picture Books Reviewer: Freidele Galya Soban Biniashvili Buy at Bookshop.org In author / illustrator Alan Silberberg’s Meet the Matzah , Alfie Koman is a matzah who likes to hide. His classmates include Challah Louyah, Na’ancy, Bun and Bun and others. His teacher, Mrs. Crust, has called on him to tell the Passover story and although Alfie attempts to tell the story, Loaf, another classmate, overruns him. Loaf tells his version of the Passover story, that includes the evil Pha-Roach and the Ten Plagues, some of which are No Wi-Fi, Early Bedtime, Broccoli for Dessert and Indoor Recess Forever. Along the lines of a sub-plot of bullying, Alfie manages to regain control of the situation away from Loaf and turns him into a friend, in a most satisfying way. Written in a combination of both text and cartoon bubbles, Meet the Matzah miraculously mana

Review: The Passover Guest

Image
The Passover Guest by Susan Kusel #ownvoices, illustrated by Sean Rubin #ownvoices Holiday House Category: Picture Books Reviewer: Bridget Hodder Buy at Bookshop.org This delightful picture book re-imagines the magical tale of the Passover Guest in the historical setting of 1930's Washington, DC. The book's delicately fantastical illustrations slip the tether on readers' imaginations and help them absorb aspects of both the history of Passover and the history of the US during the Great Depression. The result is a deeply engaging folk tale grounded in a reality that could be bleak, were it not for the enduring ties of faith and love. The love manifests in many ways, including love of family, love of community, and the open-handed love given by an impoverished Jewish family to a Passover stranger whom they welcome to their scanty holy day table. This book comes to us at a particularly relevant moment. Children all over the US and the world have recently witnessed a mob, inclu

Review: Matzah Craze

Image
Matzah Craze  by Jamie Kiffel-Alcheh #ownvoices, illustrated by Lauren Gallegos Kar-Ben Publishing (a division of Lerner Publishing Group) Category: Picture Books Reviewer: Mirele Kessous Buy at Bookshop.org Matzah Craze , by Jamie Kiffel-Alcheh and illustrated by Lauren Gallegos, takes a novel spin on the holiday of Passover. It can be awkward to bring a “Pesadic” (kosher-for-passover) lunch to school when your classmates are not familiar with Passover and its dietary restrictions. What’s a public school kid to do? Why, share the story of Passover (and the matzah) with her friends, of course! And what a diverse array of friends Noa has! Gallegos has done an excellent job portraying children of different races and backgrounds, all of whom welcome a short lesson on Jewish history from their Jewish friend. This is all done in simple rhyme, and the ease of language combined with the bright, appealing illustrations by a true professional makes this an engaging read aloud for children ages