Showing posts from June, 2021

Review: Gottika

 Gottika by Helaine Becker #ownvoices, illustrated by Vero Navarro Green Bean Books Category: Middle Grade Reviewer: Kathy Bloomfield Buy at This book is a younger middle grade version of the graphic novel, Gottika , published in 2014 for older readers. Based on the Golem legend and set in a dystopian future, this is the story of Dany and his family and their life as Stoons in Gottika. The Stoons are oppressed by the Gottikins. Stoons are made to wear red berets when they leave their homes. They are physically, verbally, and economically abused, are under a strict curfew, and live in a walled off part of the city (the favala.) There are many obvious parallels to Jewish life in Nazi Germany. This is a wild story filled with deceit, betrayal, mystery and redemption. There are a few graphic novel style illustrations in the book. When “the Troubles” come, Dany’s father, Reb Judah, returns to his magician roots and creates a man out of clay – a Gol. As in the legend, the Gol p

Review: A Rainy Day Story

 A Rainy Day Story by Ruth Calderon #ownvoices, illustrated by Noa Kelner #ownvoices Kar-Ben Publishing (imprint of Lerner Publishing Group) Category: Picture Books Reviewer: Kathy Bloomfield Buy at This very short story is found in Talmud Taanit 24b: “Rabbi Ḥanina ben Dosa was traveling along a road when it began to rain. He said before God: Master of the Universe, the entire world is comfortable, because they needed rain, but Ḥanina is suffering, as he is getting wet. The rain ceased. When he arrived at his home, he said before God: Master of the Universe, the entire world is suffering that the rain stopped, and Ḥanina is comfortable? The rain began to come again.” The Talmudic Scholar and former Knesset member Ruth Calderon simply, yet eloquently expands upon it. The addition of beautiful watercolor and colored pencil illustrations by Noa Kelner provide the strong visual associations with suffering and comfort that will lead to further discussion about the appropriat

Review: Soosie: The Horse That Saved Shabbat

Soosie: The Horse That Saved Shabbat by Tami Lehman-Wilzig #ownvoices, illustrated by Menahem Halberstadt #ownvoices Kalaniot Books Category: Picture Books Reviewer: Kathy Bloomfield Buy at This charming book is based on a memory from the grandson of the owners of Angel Bakery in Jerusalem, the largest commercial bakery in Israel. When the baker’s delivery boy gets sick and cannot deliver the Shabbat challah to the residents of Jerusalem, his horse, Soosie, takes over and “clip-clops, clip-clops” her way through the entire delivery route on her own. The delightful, cartoon-like illustrations reflect the diverse nature of Jerusalem in the early 20th century with Jews from all over the world, illustrated by their clothing styles and physical features, coming together for their Shabbat challah. This true story turned folktale is a wonderful look at Israel prior to the founding of the State. “Some Notes from the Author” in the back of the book provide historical background, In

Review: The Trouble with Good Ideas

The Trouble with Good Ideas  by Amanda Panitch #ownvoices Roaring Brook Press (imprint of Macmillan)  Category: Middle Grade Reviewer: Rachel Simon Buy at Leah Nevins is going through a lot of change. She and her parents have moved to a new town, where her Zaide (her great-grandfather) lives, and she has to switch from her familiar Jewish day school (Solomon Schechter) to a public school. She’s struggling to make friends. And now she’s struggling because she overhears her parents wanting to put Zaide in an assisted living home. He’s sometimes forgetful and confused, but Leah doesn’t want to lose one more thing. With the story Zaide told her of the Prague Golem during the Holocaust, she creates one of her own in Zaide’s backyard. Named Elsa (yes, like the Disney princess), she instructs it to protect Zaide. But soon, Elsa is taking over Leah’s life and Leah must figure out how to protect herself from her creation. The book offers a strong portrayal of Judaism from Leah’s fa