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Showing posts from July, 2021

Review: The Shelter and the Fence

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 The Shelter and the Fence: When 982 Holocaust Refugees Found Safe Haven in America by Norman H. Finkelstein Chicago Review Press Category: Middle Grade Reviewer: Dena Bach Buy at Bookshop.org The Shelter and the Fence , a non-fiction narrative by Norman H. Finkelstein, a retired librarian, history teacher and winner of two National Jewish Book awards, richly recounts the true story of the Fort Ontario Emergency Refugee Shelter in Oswego, NY. During World War II, the fear and distrust of refugees by most Americans almost entirely eliminated immigration. In stark contrast was Fort Ontario, the sole site in the United States that welcomed Jews escaping war-ravaged Europe.    Finkelstein begins his well-researched, readable account by describing the journeys taken by many of these 982 refugees to get to Oswego. He continues with an account of the working community they built behind the barbed wire fence of the fort. Included are names, detailed stories, and archival photos of s

Review: The Sun Will Come Out

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 The Sun Will Come Out by Joanne Levy Orca Book Publishers Category: Middle Grade Reviewer: Shirley Reva Vernick Buy at Bookshop.org Painfully shy twelve-year-old Bea Gelman can’t wait to attend her first sleepaway summer camp—that is, until her BFF backs out and Bea has to go to Camp Shalom alone. Bea’s social anxiety manifests itself in unsightly hives, which embarrass her in front of her crush and elicit merciless bullying from two mean girls in her cabin. When Bea sprains her ankle and then apparently gets betrayed by her one new friend, she decides to spend the summer in the infirmary. There, she meets Harry, the camp directors’ 13-year-old son, who has the terminal condition progeria. Harry’s strength and positivity inspire Bea to face her own challenges and even to participate in the camp musical production of Annie (hence, the book’s title).    Both humorous and heartwarming, The Sun Will Come Out offers a tightly plotted arc that authentically portrays the emotiona

Review: The Singer and the Scientist

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 The Singer and the Scientist by Lisa Rose, illustrated by Isabel Muñoz Kar-Ben Publishing (imprint of Lerner Publishing Group) Category: Picture Books Reviewer: Karin Fisher-Golton Buy at Bookshop.org In this picture book, almost all the action takes place on one evening in 1937—an evening that speaks  volumes about the people involved and the times when they lived. African American singing icon Marian Anderson performed that night before an all-white audience at the McCarter Theatre in Princeton, New Jersey. Young readers will get a sense of what that meant in 1937—for Ms. Anderson to see no one who looked like her in the audience, for the people who had just enthusiastically applauded her to ignore her after the show, and for her to be denied access to a hotel room because of the color of her skin. Enter the famous Jewish physicist Albert Einstein, on the surface so different—his wild hair and wrinkled clothing contrasting with Ms. Anderson’s impeccable outfit and click

Review: Abby, Tried and True

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 Abby, Tried and True by Donna Gephart Simon & Schuster Category: Middle Grade Reviewer: Judith S. Greenblatt   Buy at Bookshop.org Donna Gephart has built an audience that awaits each of her books. In this latest of her books she tackles important difficult subjects. One concern is the self-image of an introvert, the other is the effect of life-threatening illness on not only the ill person, but the whole family.  Almost twelve year old Abby is an introvert who has one friend. Unfortunately, that friend, Catriella, is moving to Israel. Her house next door is rented and eventually Abby allows herself to become friends with her new neighbor, Conrad. Abby’s beloved older brother Paul is diagnosed with testicular cancer. Abby, her Moms, the extended family and Paul’s friend Ethan work together to get through Paul’s diagnoses, surgery and chemotherapy. Abby is supported by Catriella via text and phone and Conrad, and helped by talking to her pet turtle, and by writing poetry.  Cancer i

Review: The Fabulous Tale of Fish & Chips

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The Fabulous Tale of Fish & Chips by Helaine Becker, illustrated by Omer Hoffman Green Bean Books Category: Picture Books Reviewer: Freidele Galya Soban Biniashvili  Buy at Bookshop.org Who knew fish and chips has a place in Jewish history? The Fabulous Tale of Fish & Chips , written by Helaine Becker and illustrated by Omer Hoffmann, brings this interesting part of food history to the picture book format. Joseph Malin, a descendant of Spanish Jews, ‘loved fish. He loved catching fish from the sea. He loved selling fish in his family’s shop. And, most of all, Joseph loved eating fish.’ His grandmother had taught him how to make it and explained ‘the secret of this scrumptious recipe. “It’s the crispy crust that makes the fish so delicious. And that’s why it still tastes good when we eat it cold on the Sabbath.” ’ Written in delightful prose that young readers will easily be able to follow, the story unfolds and explains how the popular combination dish of fish and chips evolved

Review: We Can't Keep Meeting Like This

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 We Can't Keep Meeting Like This by Rachel Lynn Solomon Simon & Schuster Category: Young Adult Reviewer: Cheryl Fox Strausberg Buy at Bookshop.org In the summer before she goes off to college, Quinn Berkowitz can’t help but wonder how she is going to tell her family that the future that they’ve always banked on - the one where she joins the family’s wedding planning business, isn’t the future she envisions for herself. She is tired of playing her harp at the ceremonies; she’s fed up with handling crazy brides and grooms; she hates having to give up her last summer at home with her high school friends in order to work full time. When the summer couldn’t seem to be any bleaker, her longtime crush, Tarek - the son of the caterers that her family works with - returns home after his first year at college looking happy and healthy. Quinn and Tarek haven’t spoken since a fight in the previous summer which ended when Quinn poured out her feelings for him in an email to which he never r

Review: And a Cat from Carmel Market

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 And a Cat from Carmel Market by Alyssa Satin Capucilli,illustrated by Rotem Teplow Kar-Ben Publishing (imprint of Lerner Publishing Group) Category: Picture Books Reviewer: Rachel Kamin Buy at Bookshop.org When Bubbe goes shopping on Friday afternoon in the Carmel Market in Tel Aviv, she comes home with challah, candles, chicken, fruits, vegetables, flowers, and wine as well as a parade of stray cats. But when the cats start to yowl and disrupt her Shabbat meal, Bubbe agonizes over shooing the cats away. Surprisingly, as soon as she lights the candles, “all the cats settled down before her eyes” and Bubbe and her guests are able to enjoy a delicious, and peaceful, meal. The simple rhyming text is a pleasure to read aloud and young children will join in the refrain “. . . and a cat from Carmel Market!” They will also delight in finding, and counting, all of the cats, in various sizes and colors, that follow Bubbe home. The cheery, detailed and textured illustrations by Israeli artist R

Review: Albert Einstein: Genius of Space and Time

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Albert Einstein: Genius of Space and Time! by Mark Shulman, illustrated by Kelly Tindall Portable Press, an imprint of Printers Row Publishing Group Category: Middle Grade Reviewer: Jane Kohuth Buy at Bookshop.org Albert Einstein: Genius of Space and Time! is part of the “Show me History!” graphic biography series. It presents a largely chronological overview of Einstein’s whole life rather than focusing on one particular time period or aspect of his work. The story, aimed at middle grade readers, is narrated by two characters based on Uncle Sam and the Statue of Liberty, who guide the reader through Einstein’s childhood, education, rocky marriage, scientific breakthroughs, fame, escape from Nazi Germany, reluctant encouragement to FDR to develop nuclear weapons ahead of the Germans, and later life working at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton University.    Despite dealing with sometimes very serious subject matter, the book takes an overall humorous (but always

Review: The Woodcarver's Daughter

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 The Woodcarver's Daughter by Yona Zeldis McDonough Kar-Ben Publishing (imprint of Lerner Publishing Group) Category: Middle Grade Reviewer: Stacy Mozer Buy at Bookshop.org The Woodcarver's Daughter is the story of a Russian Jewish family that is forced to immigrate because of pograms in Russia. But Batya's story isn't about the challenges of immigration or fitting into a new world, it's about the difficulties of being a girl in this time period. Batya's love of woodcarving, and the way society prevents her from enjoying her passion, is contrasted with her older brother who is forced into that apprenticeship even though he has no interest. Batya's willingness to continue to push her elders to see how capable she is a good lesson for anyone who is being told they cannot do something. I hope this book will be considered for a Sydney Taylor book honor because the book has literary merit. It has a positive and authentic Jewish religious or cultural content. Th

Review: Shloimie's Letter

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Shloimie's Letter by Freidele Galya Soban Biniashvili, illustrated by Michael Biniashvili Hachai Publishing Category: Picture Books Reviewer: Chava Pinchuck Buy at Hachai Publishing An early reader with large text and short chapters, this story is inspired by events in the author's family history. Set in 1946/1947, Shloimie Paporovich and his family live in Toronto. This ten-year-old enjoys playing baseball with his friends, but one day when he pitches, the ball breaks the car window of a neighbor, Mr. Barclay. Shloimie knows that "Gam zu l'tova" - everything is for the good, so he confesses to Mr. Barclay and agrees to do chores to work off the cost of the broken window. His best friend Hershel helps him out, which makes the raking of leaves and snow shoveling go faster. One day Shloimie's family receives a mysterious letter from Sweden. A cousin survived the Holocaust. The Paporovich family would like Leib to move to Canada, but the immigration laws are very

Review: The Many Mysteries of the Finkel Family

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 The Many Mysteries of the Finkel Family by Sarah Kapit Dial Books (imprint of Penguin Random House) Category: Middle Grade Reviewer: Meira Drazin Buy at Bookshop.org Told from alternating perspectives of neurodivergent sisters Lara and Caroline Finkel, THE MANY MYSTERIES OF THE FINKEL FAMILY by Sarah Kapit follows the girls as they begin the new school year as 7th and 6th graders respectively. With her younger sister as her best friend until now, Lara feels protective when Caroline joins her middle school. But Caroline, who speaks through her tablet, wants to be just like any kid making new friends and going to classes, and feels her sister is acting unnecessarily overprotective and, frankly, interfering. But the trouble really begins to take shape when Lara, who has started her own detective agency (FIASCCO—Finkel Investigative Agency Solving Consequential Crimes Only) discovers, along with Caroline, the answer to the mystery of why their father burned the brisket. This distresses bo

Review: An Egg for Shabbat

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  An Egg for Shabbat by Mirik Snir, illustrated by Eleyor Snir Kar-Ben Publishing Category: Picture Books Reviewer: Laurie Adler Buy at Bookshop.org An Egg for Shabbat , written by Mirik Snir and illustrated by Eleyor Snir, is a thoroughly engaging book for children in preschool through age six. The story is simple and infused with humor: young Ben, eager to help his mother, visits the chicken pen every morning to fetch an egg, only to have something different- OH NO, CRACK- go wrong each day. Mom never gets angry, and by Friday Ben has learned from experience and is finally successful in bringing home an egg, used to make the shiniest challah in honor of Shabbat. This story is told in rhyme with repeated refrains, perfect for a young audience. The pencil illustrations are uncomplicated and engaging, with soft colorful scenes from mom’s kitchen interspersed with soft blue and gray scenes from the chicken pen. What makes this book a cut above, however, is the design. Each day of the w

Review: Let Liberty Rise!: How America's Schoolchildren Helped Save the State of Liberty

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Let Liberty Rise!: How America's Schoolchildren Helped Save the State of Liberty by Chana Stiefel, illustrated by Chuck Groenink Scholastic Press Category: Picture Books Reviewer: Sandy Wasserman   Buy at Bookshop.org   FANTASTIC BOOK, but first: Though technically a picture book, there is so much wonderful information here beyond the picture book genre; this book tells us how Lady Liberty came to be -- it's her biography! When France gifted the Statue of Liberty to the US for its 100th birthday, funds ran out, and there wasn't enough money for her pedestal. What to do? Saving the day, Joseph Pulitzer, Jewish journalist and owner of the newspaper The New York World had an idea. He published the problem in the newspaper, asking for donations, and then published the names of all the donors, no matter the amount, large or small, including those from children! From spring 1885 to fall 1886, it all worked out: Lady Liberty rose, pedestal and all, and a parade ensued.