Showing posts from May, 2022

Review: Sammy Spider's First ABC

Sammy Spider's First ABC by Sylvia A. Rouss, illustrated by Katherine Janus Kahn Kar-Ben Publishing (imprint of Lerner Publishing Group), 2022 Category: Picture Books Reviewer: Emily Roth Buy at From apple to mitzvot, the latest entry in the Sammy Spider series provides a lovely introduction to the English alphabet. Each page features a new letter and an accompanying Jewish concept, as Sammy Spider and his friend Josh celebrate holidays, visit the synagogue, and eat a lot of delicious food. Sammy Spider's First ABC can be read as a straightforward alphabet book for little ones, but the humorous and insightful asides from Sammy Spider on each page make this a satisfying read aloud for older kids as well. Eclectic, collage-style illustrations create a pleasing contrast to the simplicity of the text. Each concept in the book is presented by a rhyming couplet, and as a result the text only provides a very basic overview of each concept presented. Some of the concepts

Review: When Lightnin' Struck

When Lightnin' Struck by Betsy R. Rosenthal Kar-Ben Publishing (imprint of Lerner Publishing Group), 2022 Category: Middle Grade Reviewer: Rachel J. Fremmer Buy at James Aaron (“Butch”) Ridgely doesn’t have it easy. His father died after being struck by lightning, his depressed and alcoholic mother is in jail, and his abuela, his paternal grandmother, a healer who could not heal herself, recently passed away. Now being raised by his grandfather, Pappy, James struggles to figure out his place and purpose in the world, how to stand up to his bully, and the meaning of a mysterious “charm” left him by his abuela. Helped along by a cast of characters including a Jewish friend whose family immigrated to Odessa, Texas because it was the name of their hometown in Ukraine and the local oilmen who eat at his Pappy’s diner, James makes his way. Texas on the verge of the Great Depression comes to life in Struck by Lightnin’ , tumbleweeds, dust storms, and all. Does the book have s

Review: You Are A Star, Ruth Bader Ginsburg!

You Are a Star, Ruth Bader Ginsburg by Dean Robbins, illustrated by Sarah Green Scholastic Press an Imprint of Scholastic Category: Picture Books Reviewer: Rachel J. Fremmer Buy at This picture book biography of the famed jurist is told in the first-person. With its short punchy phrasing and relatively large sans-serif font, it is aimed at slightly younger audiences than its predecessors, including Ruth Bader Ginsburg:The Case of R.B.G. vs. Inequality by Jonah Winter and I Dissent!: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark by Debbie Levy. It is also the only picture book biography of her written since her death. With sentences like, “Would you believe that my school even banned women from the library?” and attention paid to Ginsburg’s other interests, like Greek mythology (when she was a child), dancing, and opera (throughout her life), and others, this biography makes Ginsburg relatable. The realistic illustrations which include Ginsburg enjoying her many hobbies, holding a d

Review: Boys of the Beast

Boys of the Beast by Monica Zepeda Tu Books (imprint of Lee & Low), 2022 Category: Young Adult Reviewer: Heidi Rabinowitz Buy at The familiar theme of growth and bonding during an American road trip gets a fresh treatment in Boys of the Beast . Three estranged teen cousins from a mostly Latinx family meet up at Grandma Lupe's funeral and then drive her inherited car, nicknamed "the Beast," from Portland, OR back to Albuquerque, NM, with side adventures in Berkeley and Los Angeles, CA and Phoenix, AZ. While three first-person voices can be a lot for readers to keep track of, nerdy gay Jewish Ethan, sincere evangelical Christian Matt, and traumatized stoner Oscar are well-rounded and sympathetic characters, all worth rooting for. Each boy is on a quest, though they may not realize it at first. Ethan's quest takes them to San Francisco where he can finally meet the boy he's fallen in love with through texting; Matt wants to see USC where he dreams of

Review: Tía Fortuna's New Home

    Tía Fortuna's New Home by Ruth Behar, illustrated by Devon Holzwarth Alfred A. Knopf, 2022 Category: Picture Books Reviewer: Shirley Reva Vernick   Buy at   In Miami, Estrella loves to visit her elderly aunt, Tía Fortuna, and explore their shared heritage as Sephardic Jews. Fortuna had fled her home in Havana during the Cuban Revolution, bringing only a mezuzah, her memories, and the key to her Cuban home. Now Fortuna has to move again – into an assisted living facility – because her beloved Miami apartment building is slated for demolition. On moving day, Estrella is surprised that her aunt seems happy instead of sad or frightened. Over the course of the day, though, Fortuna shares her optimism, the stories from her colorful life, and the history of their ancestors. Estrella learns that goodbyes lead to new beginnings, and that changes can be weathered if you hold onto family memories, traditions, and a spirit of hopefulness.    The narrative integrates Ladino w

Review: Ripped Away

Ripped Away by Shirley Reva Vernick Regal House, 2022 Category: Middle Grade Reviewer: Leah Cypess Buy at It's just an ordinary day for Abe Pearlman: he's leaving school, head down, "not exactly frowning but not looking delirious with life either." He's braced for his usual daily routine, the highlight of which is being ignored by his crush. Then, on a whim, he steps into a fortune teller's shop... and next thing he knows, he is waking up in the body of a Jewish boy in Victorian London, where Jack the Ripper's victims are being left in the streets. Thanks to the fortune teller's cryptic warning, Abe knows he has been sent to the past to save someone's life. But is it the life of one of the Ripper's victim? Or is it someone closer to home... like his neighbor, who has been arrested because of the public suspicion that Jack the Ripper is likely a Jewish shochet (ritual slaughterer)? Abe's engaging voice, and the author's deft